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Water's Lovely [Paperback]

Ruth Rendell
2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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2.8 out of 5 stars
2.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "That little gorgon" Nov. 6 2007
By Walter Hypes TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Murder, blackmail and deceit lie at the heart of Ruth Rendell's wickedly devious The Water's Lovely where the shady past inevitably reaches its sticky fingers into the complicated present. Ismay Sealand lives with her sister Heather in a ground floor flat in North London. Upstairs lives their aunt Pamela who spends most of her days looking after Ismay and Heather's mentally deranged mother Beatrix who shouts out violent passages from the Book of Revelations after she went off the deep-end when a death shook the family twelve years ago.

What first appears, as a rather civilized family arrangement is in fact a sort of pact based on an incident involving Beatrix's second husband, Guy who allegedly drowned in the upstairs bathroom. Heather supposedly murdered Guy after she witnessed him touching and kissing Ismay in appropriate ways. Doing little to alleviate Guy's advances, perhaps because she was secretly attracted to him, Ismay has spent the past twelve years dreaming over the drowned Guy and also over what exactly had Heather done, if anything.

The four have continued to coexist in a convenient relationship, in particular Ismay and Heather as they are sisters and are also very close. Living together, they have never discussed the changes to the house, still less what happened on that hot and sweaty August day when she was fifteen and Heather was two years younger.

The verdict was accidental death, the bruises on Guy's ankles dismissed as due to some other cause. But seeing how it looked - Heather's wet dress, the wet shoes, her dislike of Guy, and also Beatrix's lie that gave her an alibi, her need to protect her from police questioning have thrown Ismay into a maelstrom of anguish and for ten years. Ismay has constantly probed and speculated and wondered.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The Water's Lovely is more about demonstrating a life philosophy than it is a mystery. If you are looking for a rewarding mystery, this book probably won't satisfy. If, however, you are looking for an interesting novel with unexpected plot developments, you'll enjoy your read.

Ms. Rendell displays a world that's very dangerous to women where they need to seize advantages wherever they can and protect themselves in as many ways as possible. Rendell's women also have to become cold-hearted if they are to win what they want through taking timely actions. The book's main strength is in using plot development to display the characters in considerable detail. The writing is quite well done except for a jumbled beginning that makes it a hard book to become comfortable with. If you make it through the first 100 pages or so, you'll find the story's flow works much better and you'll become engrossed in the action.

Ismay is the main character in the book and Chapter One opens with Ismay experiencing a dream about seeing a dead face in the water. That dream is based on an event that haunts Ismay with fears and doubts. Did her sister, Heather, murder their stepfather?

Ismay and Heather live in half of the family's former house, which has been converted into two flats. Their mother, the schizophrenic Beatrix, lives in the other flat with her sister, Pamela. Why this arrangement? Well, someone has to keep an eye on Beatrix who doesn't always take her medicine and without medicine she wanders off and becomes a great source of quotations from the Bible's book of Revelation. Pamela also hopes that changing the house will help painful memories die down for the rest of the family. Ismay and Heather can fill in for Pamela when she needs to go out.
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2.0 out of 5 stars My sympathies to the M.E. sufferer Jan. 22 2011
Format:Paperback
Jodi-Hummingbird, I am sorry about your M.E. but those who have not read this book (I didn't find it very good by the way, not a typical Ruth Rendell) could easily be misled by your piece.

The point is that Irene Litton does not have M.E. (see page 11 in my copy). She is a hypochondriac who only THINKS she has arthitis,scoliosis,M.E. and early Parkinson's. Ruth Rendell is not saying M.E. is imaginary, but that the character imagines she has it. Before attacking her Jodi you should have re-read that paragraph - but maybe your pain got in the way.
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0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ruined by an offensive comment about M.E. Dec 16 2007
By Jodi-Hummingbird TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
I really didn't think much of this book, but I'll admit that the offensive and ignorant comment on page 10 of the book may well have had at least something to do with that.

Rendell claims on page 10 that her selfish, neurotic, malingerer mother character has M.E. and that this makes her very 'tired.' It is implied that M.E. and tiredness are basically synonymous, and M.E. is linked with a character prone to malingering and exaggerating her illness but who is only very mildly ill if at all.

I would have thought that such an intelliegent author would have been aware enough and smart enough to know that the whole M.E. = CFS = tiredness thing is an INVENTION by insurance companies to save them money but has no basis whatsoever in fact. That actually you can't believe everything you read in the paper where powerful vested interest groups are involved! Even the most basic research would have made this very clear.

The fact that the World Health Organization has classified M.E. as an organic neurological disorder since 1969 should have been a big clue. This would not be the case it it were merely a vague problem of tiredness or malingering. Not to mention the fact that there have been over 60 outbreaks of M.E. (M.E. is infectious) and that M.E. is sometimes fatal (causing heart failure most commonly).

M.E. has nothing to do with fatigue, and is initiated by a viral infection that simply does not care what sort of personality you have. Many people with M.E. are bedbound and housebound, again; it is hardly a problem of mere 'fatigue' or 'all in the mind' as Rendell claims. It also affects children as young as 5.

What defines M.E.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  54 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Silence and suspicion Nov. 2 2007
By Linda Pagliuco - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Ruth Rendell is one of the best of today's writers and it's hard to imaging her producing anything bad. Although The Water's Lovely is not her best, it's still head and shoulders above most of what's being churned out in this genre. Water begins slowly, with a recurrent dream, and as pages are turned, the reader is drawn inexorably into the mystery. Rendell presents us with two murders separated by more than a decade, but connected with the welfare of two sisters. Did Heather commit either of these crimes? Did she commit both? As is common in British lit, it is populated by individuals who are closely related, yet never have the courage to communicate their fears. As a result, their problems cannot be tackled head on, and tend to grow more and more complicated and hard to resolve with each passing day.
What is missing from this novel is 1) the sharp psychological suspense that permeates most of what Rendell writes, and 2) action and movement. This is a talky book, and its resolution relies too heavily upon facile, coincidental sightings, insights, and discoveries. These flaws prevent Water from achieving the edginess necessary in a story of this type; nevertheless it is a story worth reading and thinking about. After all, it's written by Ruth Rendell....
38 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark Water July 16 2007
By Tom S. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In a house on a quiet street in London, a wall has been built to seal off an old, disused bathroom. The family that lives there--two troubled sisters and their emotionally shattered mother--never speak of the wall or what it conceals, but they think about it all the time. It's ironic that these women should be so focused on a bathtub, because they constantly wonder--like Lady Macbeth--if they will ever be washed clean of the crime that was committed there....

Welcome to the world of Ruth Rendell. She is my favorite mystery writer, and THE WATER'S LOVELY is one of her best. That's all I'm going to say. Highly, highly recommended.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly chilling Jan. 7 2007
By Veronica - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
As a die hard Ruth Rendell fan I am always very excited when a new novel by her is published. `The Water's Lovely' completely lived up to my hopes and is a great addition to Rendell's amazing back catalogue of work.

The two central characters are Ismay and Heather, sisters who share a murderous secret. The novel follows the two women as they both find love and struggle to keep it. The book is about as far from a romance novel as it is possible to get - Ismay's lover, for example, is overbearing and boorish and Heather's lover has a poisonous hypochondriac of a mother. As usual, Rendell turns the thumbscrews to create a novel where the tension builds and builds to a satisfying if quietly horrific climax.

The characters are believable and the plot is twisty and clever. Perhaps coincidence plays rather too big a part in the resolution of a certain plot point, but the book is so well-written and interesting that I couldn't force myself to care very much. Also, some of the dialogue doesn't ring true because ordinary 20-somethings simply do not talk in the way that Rendell writes, but I personally enjoy her use of language so I wouldn't want this to be changed although it is not realistic. The book has some very good subplots, such as the aunt of Ismay and Heather searching for romance and finding something much more terrifying instead and a woman who preys on old people for their money. There is also a real shock on the last page that is very thought-provoking.

Overall, I highly recommend this book and I'm sure dedicated Rendell fans will not be disappointed.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strong Start, Weak Finish Aug. 19 2007
By John D. Cofield - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Amazon Verified Purchase
At the beginning of The Water's Lovely Ruth Rendell proves once more that she is a master of psychological suspense. Two sisters live in a flat which was once the first floor of their family home. Upstairs, in a separate flat live their insane mother and her caretaker sister. What trauma has caused this strange situation? Years earlier, a crime was committed, and the family has been living with the after-effects ever since. Gradually, the family's troubles spread to include some of their friends and acquaintances and other more distant connections. These characters are not secondary to the story, but become an integral part of it as their own lives and difficulties turn out to be interwoven.

This buildup which takes place in the first half or so of the book is among the finest writing Rendell has done. Unfortunately, she appears to have lost interest in the book at about the midway mark and from then on seems to be rushing to get things wound up and finished. A major plot segment turns on a coincidence so unlikely that it makes the reader lose confidence in the plot. At the end, what seemed to have been some tantalizing buildups to some shocking revelations turn out to be leadins to rather dull conclusions. At the end, the reader is left hanging as to the outcome of some intended marriages and future developments, which might be tantalizing if we cared more about the characters. Since the second half disappoints, we don't really care much about what happens to any of them beyond a strong desire to kick a few across the room in disgust. That maybe what Rendell intended, but the feeling that she just finished the book to fulfill a contractual obligation is too strong to make that really believable.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A number of problems, including a bad ending Feb. 8 2009
By Debra Hamel - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Ruth Rendell's The Water's Lovely has a delightfully chilling premise. Twelve years before the book begins, Guy Rolland drowned in his bathtub. His stepdaughter Ismay, who was 15 at the time, is still haunted by it: the bleached body floating beneath the surface of the water. But more troubling is that she still doesn't know what role her younger sister Heather played in his death--Heather, who came down the stairs with her clothes wet, strangely calm, and led Ismay and her mother to the scene. Certainly, finding out what happened is impossible without confronting Heather, and confrontation, 12 years on, seems impossible. But if Heather killed once, mightn't she do so again?

In the here and now, Ismay and Heather live together in a flat downstairs from their aunt and mother, who's gone mad. The sisters and their aunt have relationships with various men, and the familial life of Heather's beau Edmund is explored at length. Indeed, his hypochondriacal mother's scheming acquaintance Marion comes to constitute a second thread to the story, and a threat, eventually, to Heather and Ismay.

Unfortunately, The Water's Lovely falls short of being a great book. In part this is because it loses focus, the author getting sidetracked by stories that are tangential to the plot. For much of the book our concern about Heather and what she may or may not have done is forgotten. Too much of the story, too, depends on coincidence. Finally, Rendell's final few pages are a sort of epilogue that comes out of nowhere and serves no purpose in the story. I can see what Rendell was trying to accomplish with the dramatic water-themed ending, but it doesn't work, and it leaves one feeling cheated.

-- Debra Hamel
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