For 40 days, I am choosing a book from my personal book shelves. It will be a book that is insightful, intriguing, or illuminating about women. I will write why I think this book is a positive one and worth a read. This isn’t advertising for me or to promote any of my friends. It’s simply praise for good books.
Day 7, The Brimstone Wedding by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell)
Genevieve Warner lives in the English village where she has always lived. She’s wed to a solid man she’s known since childhood, and she works as an aide in an upscale nursing home called Middleton Hall. For fun, she watches old movies with a girlfriend or stops by the pub run by her mum. It’s a pleasant if uneventful life, and though Jenny is fascinated by superstitions, she is a good girl who thinks nothing exciting will ever happen to her. Two things change that: A married man named Ned rents the village’s one big country house, and a woman named Stella moves into the nursing home. Stella is dying of cancer but she is ladylike and well-to-do, and she takes a shine to Jenny. Ned takes a shine to Jenny as well. The story shows how a pleasant life becomes one so full of complications, secrets, and deceit, it could the plot of a vintage film of its own. Jenny is desperate for a confidante. She tells Stella her secret. It is a wise choice. Stella, it turns out, was once great friends with a minor movie star–and the movie star’s husband. Stella, it turns out, still owns a small hidden cottage outside the village where two married lovers might rendezvous. Stella, it turns out, knows more about complications, secrets, and deceit than her elegant demeanor suggests.
Why is The Brimstone Wedding a good read for women? Barbara Vine is the pen name Ruth Rendell uses for her novels of psychological suspense, and this one includes twists but also unexpected honesty about a touchy subject. Jenny’s evolution from placid wife to passionate lover is presented without judgement, but the story Stella reveals about herself is a cautionary tale about illicit love. Because Rendell/Vine is a masterful storyteller, the story goes into places only a brave and sure writer would take it.