The Child's Child, by Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine

If betrayal mixed with sex and murder is the type of cocktail you like in a book, then drink in The Child’s Child by Barbara Vine, a pseudonym for Ruth Rendell. Under the name Vine, Rendell is known for creating works that deal with family dramas and the problems caused by secrets kept and by secrets told.

The Child’s Child is the title of this book as well as the title of a book that Grace, the main character, is reading. Grace and her brother Andrew have recently inherited their grandmother’s London house. Instead of selling it, they decide to move in together. Soon afterward, Andrew’s lover James settles in too. He makes quite an impression as Grace observes: “James was very bright indeed. He was—well, is— tall, slim, dark, and seems to have a permanent, perfectly natural tan. His eyes are dark blue; his teeth are like Americans’ teeth and have apparently been looked after by a dentist from Boston. He’s a flawless man with perfect, long-fingered hands and feet, which I saw bare in the in the garden on a hot day.”

What could possibly go wrong with this trio living under one roof? Actually, probably more than you can imagine. But in the midst of this family drama, Grace starts reading a long-lost work from the 1950s called The Child’s Child. More than two-thirds of Vine’s story is devoted to this novel within a novel that was never published because its twin foci - unwed motherhood as well as homosexual love and erotic encounters - was too scandalous for midcentury 1900.

This inner tale also revolves around a sister living with her gay brother. When 15-year-old Maud becomes pregnant, her parents refuse to let her stay with them; however her older brother John offers to have her move in with him. Like Andrew, John is gay, but he lives at a time when most of society frowned on such an acknowledgement.

John has an idea: What if Maud moved in with him and they told people they were married? Then townspeople would think the baby had a father, that Maud had a husband, and that John had a wife and child? What could possibly go wrong with this trio living under one roof? Once again, probably more than you can imagine!

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