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The Water's Lovelyby Ruth Rendell
Synopses & Reviews
Weeks went by when Ismay never thought of it at all. Then something would bring it back or it would return in a dream. The dream began in the same way. She and her mother would be climbing the stairs, following Heather's lead through the bedroom to what was on the other side, not a bathroom in the dream but a chamber floored and walled in marble. In the middle of it was a glassy lake. The white thing in the water floated toward her, its face submerged, and her mother said, absurdly, "Don't look " Because the dead thing was a man and was naked and she was a girl of fifteen. But she had looked and in the dreams she looked again, but at Guy's drowned face. She had looked at the dead face and though she would forget from time to time what she had seen, it always came back, the fear still there in the dead eyes, the nostrils dilated to inhale water, not air.
Heather showed no fear, no emotion of any kind. She stood with her arms hanging by her sides. Her dress was wet, clinging to her breasts. No one spoke then, neither in the reality nor in the dreams, neither of them said a word until their mother fell on her knees and began crying and laughing and babbling nonsense.
When she came home the house was a different place. She had known, of course, that it would be two self-contained flats, the upper one for her mother and Pamela, the lower one for her and Heather, two pairs of sisters, two generations represented. In her last term at university, four hundred miles away in Scotland, what she hadn't understood was that part of the house would disappear.
It was Pamela's idea, though Pamela didn't know why. She knew no more of what had happened than the rest of the world knew. In innocence and well-meaning, she had planned and carried out these drastic changes. She showed Ismay the ground-floor flat and then she took her upstairs.
"I'm not sure how much Beatrix understands," she said, opening the door to what had been the principal bedroom, the room they had walked through to find the drowned man. "I can't tell how much she remembers. God knows if she even realizes it's the same room."
I can hardly realize, thought Ismay. The shock of it silenced her. She looked around her almost fearfully. It was one room now. The door to the bathroom had been--where? The French windows to the balcony were gone, replaced by a single glass door. The whole place looked larger, nearer to the dream room, yet less spacious.
"It's better this way, isn't it, Issy?"
"Oh, yes, yes. It's just that it was a shock." Perhaps it would have been better to sell the house and move. But how else would she and Heather afford a flat to share? "Has Heather seen it?"
"She loves all the changes. I don't know when I've seen her so enthusiastic about anything." Pamela showed her the two bedrooms that had once been hers and Heather's, the new kitchen, the new bathroom. At the top of the stairs she paused, holding on to the newel post and turning her eyes on Ismay almost pleadingly. "It's ten years ago, Issy, or is it eleven?"
"Ten. Coming up to eleven."
"I thought changing things like this would help you finally to put it behind you. We couldn't go on keeping that room shut up. How long is it since anyone went in there? All those ten years, I suppose."
Nearly a decade after the killing of her stepfather, Ismay is still haunted by nightmares of his murder and of seeing his naked body floating in the bathtub and her sister, Heather, standing over him. Reprint. 30,000 first printing.
When Ismay and Heather's stepfather was discovered dead in the bathtub nine years ago, the police concluded the drowning was an accident. But Ismay has always silently suspected that Heather might have had something to do with it. Now they're older and their lives seem to be moving happily forward. But when Heather becomes seriously involved with a man for the first time, Ismay's long-repressed memories can no longer be ignored. With painful inevitability, Ismay learns that she may not able to keep the dark truth hidden forever.
About the Author
Ruth Rendell has won many awards, including the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for 1976's best crime novel with A Demon in My View; a second Edgar in 1984 from the Mystery Writers of America for the best short story, The New Girl Friend; a Gold Dagger award for Live Flesh in 1986. She was also the winner of the 1990 Sunday Times Literary Award, as well as the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger. In 1996 she was awarded the CBE and in 1997 became a Life Peer.
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