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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on September 14, 2000
This is a novel that deals not just with envy. Elizabeth and Ruth are cousins, and Elizabeth gets adopted by Ruth's parents when her own parents are killed. The girls grow up as sisters, but all along Ruth develops an incredible ill for Elizabeth, even though she doesn't do anything to provoke that resentment. Ruth makes it her life's mission to destroy Elizabeth. Her dream is to see her in pain, suffering and humiliated. She resorts to extreme manipulations and convoluted schemes to achieve that purpose.
Ruth is an amazing character, who personifies badness in a thought-provoking way. Her selfishness, envy and greed are almost incomprehensible. How can a human being harbor such hate for someone who has never done anything wrong? This novel made me think and think about the issue. Is it possible that people are born bad? So many times i've heard that we are all born good, and it's circumstances that make us bad. Did Ruth turn bad when she saw her parents combing Elizabeth's hair? Was that the moment when Ruth became jealous of her cousin? What happened in subsequent years, how did that badness grow?
Almost as amazing are Elizabeth's reactions to her sister's attacks. As evil as Ruth is, so is Elizabeth gracious and forgiving. Elizabeth summarizes her philosophy of life during their final meeting, a cathartic episode for Ruth, who is deeply changed after that.
A fascinating, disturbing novel that i highly recommend.
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on February 14, 2014
Strange story of Ruth, who holds eternal envy and cannot forgive the good Elizabeth for being in her life. Elizabeth is the victim of tragedy, and Ruth's parents adopt her. From the outset, Ruth sees Elizabeth as the malicious invader thwarting her birthrights. Ruth manipulates; she understands her strengths and uses them to destroy Elizabeth. It is obvious she is on the cusp of madness. The writing is all about style, and there is a dark, haunting, strange and mesmerizing quality to this book. I liked it better than The Stillest Day and Damage. How broken is Ruth? A wounded psychopath, and how perceptive is Elizabeth? Book is obvious in its construction, but it is persuasive just the same.
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on May 16, 2013
The story is painful, visceral, but in the hands of JS is not just a story--it's an exquisite, evocative art form, which is also very readable and fun. Wish she had written more books like this. Other than Damages, of course. This is one book I give to all my friends, and I never put my copy in the garage. When JH writes, "Memories--the living with them, and the killing of them--blur so much of daily life. We pick today's bouquet of feelings, sounds and smells, for tomorrow's contemplation," I savor it, then wonder how she can come up with some many excellent passages like that. The story itself and the plot, though also excellent in its rendering, is secondary to that. Those that dismiss this book because they don't like the story would likely dismiss David for being just a stone depiction of a man.
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on April 2, 2015
I never read Josephine Hart before, but I enjoyed this book immensely. It was a very fast read, and the author shows a cutting variation on the good-sister/bad-sister theme. Ruth is SO bad, and Elizabeth is SO good.

Ruth despises her sister Elizabeth, who is actually her cousin. (Elizabeth's parents were killed in an accident, so she is being raised by Ruth's parents.) Ruth is full of malignant hate; she detests everything about Elizabeth, and she is devoting her every thought, action and plan to Elizabeth's destruction. But Ruth is sly about it and does her nasty stuff secretly - although anyone could tell, by just her snide way of speaking, that all is not A-OK in Ruth's world (and head too, perhaps). She is like a Cousin Bette, perhaps even a darker version.

This is an exquisite and disturbing study of the corruption that hate can cause. I usually read thrillers, and I wondered how this book made its way into my Kindle, but I'm so glad that it did. Not a thriller, but chilling in its own way: A dark, psychological study of a tainted mind's machinations and their consequences. Fascinating book! Ms. Hart's spare phrasing was artful and poetic, and I'm looking forward to more of her works.

Five Stars for a unique reading experience.
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on August 6, 2012
This is the second book I've read by this author. She has a very different style. It's almost dry, yet not boring at all. Her stories do not have happy endings, which I think is awesome, yet they are love stories just the same.

This book gives a glimpse into the truly disturbed mind of a young woman. The resentment she feels towards her "adopted" sister is profound and has been growing within her since she was a child.

She will stop at nothing in her efforts to destroy her sister. Her thinking is completely distorted and only when nearly all things are lost, due to her obsession, does she begin to make a sort of change in herself. But really, does a truly disturbed mind ever change?

This book made me think about many things. First and foremost, the things we contemplate within the confines of our minds. Most people may entertain irrational thoughts, but most don't act upon them. Ruth acts on them. All of them.

I found it very intriguing.
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on May 22, 2013
It's been a while since I read it, but I remember that the jealousy of one and the actions of the cousin trying to stay out of the spotlight were the interesting parts of this book. The accident that should have drawn them together only added more anger. Trying to relate into my own life, I wold have cut off all contact earlier, but then there would not have been an interesting side of their lives. I don't think I was happy with the ending, but I understand it written that way.
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on December 8, 1999
I thought Sin was a crafty follow-up to Damage. Not as poignant, but a good read nonetheless. Some second novels are flat compared to the author's first release, but this is not the case with Sin. It is well worth your time although I do concede that it has an overall soap opera feel to it. The place names, plot, and characters can seem ostentatious at times so prepare to make at least a small suspension of disbelief. Hart continues to explore the ideas of jealousy, obession and passion in Sin but not with the same effectiveness as with Damage. Overall, I would suggest Sin as an excellent rainy day, relax and have fun read.
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on February 5, 2002
I see this as a story of girl, Ruth, who carried burden of deprived childhood, deprived in an unusal way(being too lucky/capable). It develps in to a dream to see her cousin and adopted sitestr Elizabeth suffer in pain, in all possible secretive ways. On the other hand Elizabeth has practiced to love Ruth instead of fighting her, She didn't figure this out till Elizabeth told her of her strategy at a very late stage in their lives. If Damage is a good book, this is an excellent one.
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on December 1, 2011
Josephine Hart, like Pat Barker, writes about dark emotions and drives that shape the lives of not only her protagonists (if one can find a true protagonist in her novels) but their families. I am in awe of her talent. Minimalist prose (she makes Hemingway look like Dickens...) is the perfect frame for these explorations of the darkest of all emotions and of human frailty---and cruelty. You cringe as the plot develops yet you can't look away. This book and her other novel, Damage are two of my favorite books this year and I can't wait to read Oblivion.
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on June 20, 2000
Josephine Hart has a superb way with words. As a novelist, her writing is almost poetic; she can say in one paragraph, what takes Pat Conroy several pages. This novel, her second, is deeply psychological, mostly taking place in the mind of the main character. Unlike her first novel, Damage, it should not ever be made into a film. The book is short. I enjoyed it immensely.
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