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Grasshopper Hardcover – October 3, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books; 1st American ed edition (October 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0609607898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0609607893
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,399,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

A new novel from Barbara Vine (or Ruth Rendell, her alter ego) is always cause for celebration, and in this exceptional psychological thriller, she displays all her mastery of craft to draw the reader into an unfamiliar world. She paints a vivid picture of the roots of obsession in the history of a young woman whose love of high places has been marked by tragedy, guilt, and exile from her family's home.

Clodagh Brown has always been frightened by enclosed spaces and loved climbing, a phobia and passion that resulted in the death of her high school sweetheart. As a college student living in the basement of a distant relative's home in Maida Vale, a slightly shabby London neighborhood, she encounters a group of peers who share both of these psychological quirks and introduce her to the steep rooftops of her new surroundings. Clodagh soon falls in love with Silver, a young man whose top-floor apartment across from her flat houses a diverse and fascinating group of people. Their youthful idealism and moral certainties are often at odds with conventional values and legal niceties. While Clodagh and Silver carry the story, their peers present ample opportunities for Vine to showcase her talent for imagining a multiplicity of lives and personas--from Liv, the Swedish au pair who can clamber over rooftops like a mountain goat but is terrified of what awaits her on level ground, to Jonny, whose pathological need to dominate the others, particularly Liv, leads to the shocking and tragic denouement. When the climbers chance upon a top-floor flat where a couple and their adopted mixed-race son are hiding from the authorities (who would remove the child from their care), Vine's ability to alter pace without sacrificing story or character really stands out. Grasshopper is an acutely drawn, immensely satisfying book. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Writing under her Vine pseudonym, Ruth Rendell offers another of her intriguing, multifaceted psychological suspense novels (The Chimney Sweeper's Boy and The Brimstone Wedding, etc.). The narrator here is Clodagh Brown, who, as a child growing up in Suffolk, loved climbing trees, then steeples and eventually pylons whose steel arms carried electricity across nearby fields. Resembling giant grasshoppers from a distance, close-up they embodied high-voltage, lethal danger; indeed, a teenage Clodagh survives a tragic accident involving a pylon and her first love, Daniel, before she leaves home at 19 for college in London. She finds classes boring, whereas walks through Victorian neighborhoods, with five-story row houses, decorative cornices and quaint chimneys, enchant her. Clodagh almost forgets the claustrophobic terrors she's suffered since childhood until she collapses in a pedestrian underpass and is rescued by an archetypal savior named Silver. On the top floor of his mostly absent parents' home, Silver provides a haven for a disparate group: exotic Wim, mentor to would-be roof climbers; Liv, who, after an accident, can't face descending to street level; and amoral Jonny, who interests Silver because he is "a real life burglar." Silver has a small trust fund, so he's free to cultivate "the habit of happiness." He and Clodagh fall in love, and both become intrepid midnight roof climbers. As youthful idealists, they determine to help a couple harassed by tabloids accusing them of kidnapping a child. Their ill-fated attempt leads to a terrifying climax. Although readers know that Clodagh, a beguiling heroine, has survived to become a successful electrical engineer, and is newly married, the story of her youthful adventures is enthralling, and the conundrums she faces in her life because of her love of heights make for an ingenious story told by a master of suspense.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

On to the next Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine book....
I found the plot of Grasshopper to be confusing, and, in the end, boring.
Kindle Customer
I completed it but was relieved to close the cover.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Suspense Fan on November 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Though Grasshopper was worth the reading, I think that fans of Vine/Rendell know there are better novels by her out there. If you're not familiar with this author and haven't read King Solomon's Carpet, if you enjoyed this book, I'd highly recommend that one. It seems to succeed where this one falls a little flat. Grasshopper didn't make my favorite Barbara Vine book list...but it came close. Still, the characters in Grasshopper were thought-provoking and this alone made it all worthwhile. Nobody can create characters and set a mood like Barbara Vine.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on March 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Grasshopper" may not be one of Barbara Vine's best novels (and I have read all of them), but I just got over the flu, and spent the last two days riveted to this book. I kept intending to go back to bed and sleep, but couldn't put this down. So much for it being boring.
Still, I could say the same about virtually any of Rendell/Vine's work. "Grasshopper" features rich characterizations and a fine narrative that carries the story rattling forward. Where it falls short of her earlier achievements is in the plot, which is contrived in places. Elements from previous works ("A Fatal Inversion," "King Solomon's Carpet", and "The Tree of Hands") are recycled here, less effectively than in the earlier works. Rendell always drops subtle hints about what is to come and makes extensive use of foreshadowing, but here the payoff is less than what her readers have come to expect. Usually she succeeds in delivering at least one jaw-dropping surprise per book, and puts in a vicious twist of the knife at the end. Unfortunately, she does not do that in "Grasshopper."
In spite of these shortcomings, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The central character in particular is believable and appealing, and as always the narrative is peppered with Rendell's keen observations of human behavior. I would recommend this book for those familiar with her work; however for those who are not, "A Fatal Inversion" or "A Dark-Adapted Eye" are better places to start. (For a very fast read, try "The Tree of Hands", or "Going Wrong.")
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Absolutely gorgeous. I still like A Fatal Inversion and perhaps No Night is Too Long better, but this one is magnificent. As usual in a BV novel, the psychology is subtle and complex. Vine does not clobber you over the head with it, but advances it through motifs and imagery. Yes, there are implausible happenings and a really wild coincidence or two, but the narrative sustains itself so well from one page to the next that one can easily accept the ending.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Verita VINE VOICE on November 10, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I couldn't put this book down. I think that the reviewers who didn't like it were reacting to its not being a typical "mystery" but more of a psychological suspense novel. I don't think an author who has written over fifty novels can be expected to reproduce the same exact formula in each book. It would get very old. Here, the characters are brilliantly drawn, and very interesting, but they are not mainstream characters. They are young adult misfits, and as such rang very true to me. The part about roof climbing was not so farfetched either -- I don't know if people do it, but if they bungee jump, then it certainly is possible. I also remember reading a story years ago about two young people caught making love (by a traffic helicopter) on top of a bridge tower in NYC.

I find it refreshing that Rendell/Vine writes about outsiders -- I get tired of reading about lawyers and academics. And these are middle-class outsiders, not so very far from many readers and our children. I found Clodagh believable if not entirely engaging, and Silver, her boyfriend, right on. An idealistic young man with an inherited income who does not distinguish between good and evil, but finds everyone interesting, and learns through experience observing the other young people in his flop of an apartment. He cannot imagine evil until he meets it...

That said, it does not really have one main story line, but multiple threads, without a central conclusion. That didn't bother me. If you enjoy a read you can really get your teeth into, this is for you. If you prefer a standard mystery formula, then maybe not.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By PianoGuyFromSC on November 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book begins as we expect a Rendell/Vine book to begin: with a character whose phobia or neurosis (in this case, claustrophobia), drives succeeding events. Probably the best of this type is Rendell's "Judgement in Stone." But the narrator isn't the ONLY loonie: there's a whole collection of them in one building (as in "King Solomon's Carpet" which was a MUCH better book). As another reviewer noted, the constant hopping back and forth in time and the frequent foreshadowing become annoying after awhile. Reliance on HUGE coincidences, and a ho-hum ending (which the narrator even admits everyone probably saw coming) also makes the plot less than Vine's best.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
After having read Barbara Vine's latest novel, "Grasshopper," I thought I'd peruse the reviews. The pros are full of praise (if not outright ecstatic words) about this book; it disappointed just about all of the civilians (readers). Why, I asked myself. A few thoughts thereon: this book has some things in common with the previous ones by Barbara Vine, to be sure, but it has no Great Revelation in the last pages (in fact, the author herself says that who "my husband" is will not surprise the reader), and there are some unanswered situations as well. Not typical. Not totally tidy. But not bothersome, either, at least, to this reader. The book is full of the usual Vine touches: lots of details about places, lots of little lists here and there, much to do with food and drink, and (especially for one character) wardrobe. The writing is graceful, not fussy, literate (mostly . . . wait a bit), and time frames are easy to understand. The many biographies are well set throughout the book, and the details are interestingly expressed. The almost-villainous characters have some redeeming features. There is social comment (on adoption, on treating obsessive behavior, on the problems with institutional these-are-our-rules attitudes, on the hungry-for-fodder press). I think of this as a coming-of-age novel, with some overtones of suspense, some of unearthing the mysteries of the past to explain the present, but none of the wilder aspects of (for example) my Vine favorite: NO NIGHT IS TOO LONG (the English translation of a line from the von Hoffmanstal libretto for DER ROSENKAVALIER), which also has a less-than-usual setting in the U.S., for part of the book.Read more ›
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