Portobello by Ruth Rendell
|Portobello by Ruth Rendell|
|Category: General Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: It all began when a man had a heart attack and lost some money and a group of people are brought together. By the end of the book some will be dead, others will be happy. It's an exceptional book and highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: November 2008|
Eugene Wren was out shopping one day when he came across an envelope containing money. The sensible thing to do would have been to take it to the police but Eugene didn't do that. Instead he put a notice up on various lamp posts, much in the way that people post notices about lost cats, inviting people who had lost a sum of money to telephone him at home. This action would bring together a number of people from very different backgrounds and their lives would be irrevocably altered.
Every instinct told me that Eugene was wrong to put the notice up rather than go to the police, but then Eugene is an unusual man. He's secretive even with the woman he loves and he has an addictive personality – he's cut down on the alcohol, given up smoking but now he's addicted to a sugar-free sweet. He hides them all over the house so that he need never be without them. He would feel shamed if his secret, his weakness was exposed.
The first person to apply for the money is Lance, recently evicted from his girlfriend's flat after a spot of domestic violence. He's staying with his Uncle in a run-down house and he's desperate to get hold of some cash. Visiting Eugene isn't just in the forlorn hope of getting his hands on someone else's money – he's also working out if the house is worth a bit of breaking and entering. It is – Eugene is a wealthy man and the interior of his home is of a type which Lance thought only existed in films.
Joel was the rightful owner of the money. He'd just drawn it from a cash machine when he had a heart attack in the street and ended up in hospital. It's not just his heart that gives him problems either – he lives in almost complete darkness with an invisible companion called Mithras. His mother visits him secretly, as his wealthy father will have nothing to do with him, but there's only one person Joel wants to help him and that's Dr Ella Cotswold – Eugene Wren's girlfriend.
All this takes place against the backdrop of Portobello Road and the surrounding area – where the rich live cheek by jowl with the underprivileged, where some houses have bay trees outside the front door and other have rats in the outside lavatory. There really is no one quite like Rendell for evoking place in a few words.
It's not often you pick up a book where the plot is technically perfect, where the characters all come off the page perfectly formed and the writing is so good that it's impossible to spot an unnecessary word, but which still manages to be a damn good story. I was still reading at two o'clock this morning, determined to find out what happened to all these people and there was a real feeling of satisfaction when I read the final page. This is a writer on the very top of her form.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
If this book appeals to you then we know that you'll also enjoy The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine, who is, of course, also Ruth Rendell.
You can read more book reviews or buy Portobello by Ruth Rendell at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Portobello by Ruth Rendell at Amazon.com.
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