A Sight for Sore Eyes tells three stories, and for the longest time, the reader has no inkling of how they will come together. The first is a story of a little girl who has been scolded and sent to her room when her mother is brutally murdered; as Francine grows up, she is haunted by the experience, and it is years before she even speaks. Secondly, we become privy to the life of a young man, Teddy, born of unthinking young parents, who grows up almost completely ignored. Free of societal mores, he becomes a sociopath, who eventually discovers that killing can be an effective way to get what he wants. Thirdly, we meet Harriet, who from an early age has learned to use her beauty to make her way in the world. Bored by marriage to a wealthy, much older man, she scans the local newspapers for handymen to perform odd jobs around the house, including services in the bedroom.
When these three plots strands finally converge, the result is harrowing and unforgettable. A Sight for Sore Eyes is not just the work of a writer at the peak of her craft. It is an extraordinary story by a writer who, after 45 books, countless awards, and decades of international acclaim, is still getting better with every book.
So, this is one of those wishy washy books...where you say to your friends "well, it wasn't good but it wasn't necessarily bad either." Like that helps, right? But honestly, I just have lukewarm feelings about this book.
This was the latest choice for my book club as we've picked our way along EW's list of 100 new classics. Since A Sight for Sore Eyes appeared on the list, you know that it is a critical darling (I just want to make you aware that my view of this book likely diverges from popular critical sentiment). So, let me just break it down in a list of pros and cons for ya:
- Characterization - extremely realistic and fully fleshed out characters.
- Compelling - this book is easily readable, I finished it in two sittings!
- Multiple POVs done well - sometimes this can be annoying and can make a book feel choppy, not the case in A Sight for Sore Eyes.
- Yucky characters - and by this I mean, I didn't like a single character in this book! Actually, the one person who I had any small amount of sympathy for is a mass murderer!
- Bad categorization - this is shelved in the mystery section of the library and is indeed touted as a mystery...why? There was no mystery to be solved so I'm really perplexed by its categorization. This threw off my expectations for the book a bit (which made me a little miffed)!
- The ending - it's one of those that makes you go "ugh! really?!" I can't say anything more without spoiling except to say that it kind of seemed like the easiest and cleanest conclusion for Rendell, not necessarily the best conclusion for the story (although I can't think up an alternative).
- Also, the Goodreads summary says the reader has "no inkling" of how the three storylines converge...um, not true. I realized how these three would meet up quite easily, although there were other twists and turns to keep me on my toes.