The Child’s Child – Barbara Vine

This is my second foray into Ruth Rendell’s books written under the pseudonym Barbara Vine. I always enjoy the psychological elements of this author’s books so was keen to read the Barbara Vine ones and they do not disappoint. This book deals with the emerging acceptance of homosexuality and unmarried mothers within the time periods of the 1930’s and the 1950’s. The first part deals with the 1950’s in which a gay man, moves into a house he has inherited along with his unmarried sister who then becomes pregnant by her brother’s lover. I then wondered if I wanted to go back in time but, I did find both parts intriguing. In the 1930’s tale we meet Maud, who becomes pregnant at fifteen, and is taken to live with her gay brother as his wife in a small village. This should have been an ideal cover up but, it isn’t long before Maud’s brother starts to feel trapped especially when he becomes more involved with his London based lover, Bertie. Of course Maude strongly disapproves of the rather course Bertie and her brother’s relationship with him but, isn’t really in a position to show her true feelings. As always Rendell’s characters are so well defined that a reader can feel that they know someone just like those portrayed in the book. Maud is a particularly well developed character as she starts off as a frightened child who is glad to be cared for by her brother in her time of need and ends up as a despicable person who only cares for herself. Towards the end of the book we return to the 1950’s and see just how the two tales mirror each other in many ways. By the end of both narratives the characters seem mostly to have found their place in life even if it isn’t exactly what they wanted. In some cases they certainly get what can only be described as their ‘come uppence’! What I found most interesting was that, although the time period moved on, the actual moral opinion towards gay men and unmarried mothers had not really changed all that much by the fifties. Thankfully, we have moved on quite a bit in 2020 so there are fewer and fewer people who feel themselves entitled to take such high moral opinions as those we find in this book.

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