Unlike the other residents of Middleton Hall, Stella is elegant, smart, and in control. Only Jenny, her care assistant, knows that she harbours a painful secret, and only she can prevent Stella from carrying it to the grave.
As the women talk, Jenny pieces together the answers to many questions that arise: Why has she kept possession of a house that her family don't know about? What happened there that holds the key to a distant tragedy?
As Jenny uses the house to meet her lover, she makes some unusual discoveries, but only when Stella leaves Jenny her tape recorder, into which she has recorded the true events of the past, can the truth be finally - and shockingly - revealed.
©1995 Kingsmarkham Enterprises Ltd (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
Juliet Stephenson's narration was superb. main characters likeable, just found the story didn't have any excitement. Might stick with Ruth Rendell from now on.
Wife, mother, reader. Preferred genres include psychological fact and fiction, comedy and (auto)biography.
This is a novel I've read a couple of times before, but Juliet Stevenson's narration really brought it to life. The story of Genievive (Jenny) Warner, a care home worker and Stella, a dying resident, were voiced by Stevenson to highlight both the similarities and difference to their respective lives. A truly great story of love, regret and loss, set in and around the fenland of rural Norfolk.
"Amazing reader elevates book to a higher level"
I am a Ruth Rendell (aka Barbara Vine) fan, but this audiobook stands out because of the amazing narration by Juliet Stevenson. The reader takes this book to a higher level and as a result her voice beckoned to me constantly to pick it up and continue after every interruption over the past three days. The story itself begins very well, but it drags on just a little too long to be rated as highly as the narration. The ending was ultimately surprising and neatly tied up the threads of the story but without this fabulous narration I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much. The subjects of the story focus on infidelity, cruelty, how women's lives and social views of marriage and fidelity have changed over the last 70 years - all interesting and engaging topics that carry most of the story along at a very good pace.
I can't say enough about the power of Stevenson's reading. She adds subtle differentiation to voices through accents and voice coloration that make it impossible to miss which character is speaking, her ability to communicate emotion is unequalled among female readers, and her timing is perfect.
The story is very interesting and I only rate it a '3' because I felt the pacing of the story stumbled in the second half of the story and made me impatient when there remained three hours left to go. Overall despite this flaw it was one of the better psychological mystery novels I've read in a while.
Still, I recommend it as highly as I do because I am amazed by what Juliet Stevenson adds to this novel by her tremendous abilities as a narrator.
"Ruth Rendell and Juliet Stevenson . . . Wonderful!"
This book written by a master and read by a master narrator is to be savored a bite at a time like a box of chocolates -- or gobbled whole overnight! I didn't gobble it whole; however I stayed with the last several hours and was left in a real funk! The story is about a sweet old lady who is only in her early 70's but is dying of cancer. Her care-giver in a pricey nursing home thinks the old lady is interesting. A real love and care grows between them. There are plot details that would be missed by listeners who "gobble"! The medical details are minimal. Both women have been married and had a lover on the side. Their stories are inter-twined with no confusion between the two. The listener cares about both -- with Genevieve's (the care-giver) story progressing in real time and Stella's (the old lady) told in flashbacks and on cassette after she is gone. This is a true horror story! Ruth Rendell is clever and subtle and quite delicious!
Juliet Stevenson is superb narrating Jane Austen. In this story she gets to holler and talk like some unkempt hausfrau in a dirty housecoat. She's an actress! I appreciate the silences after some shocking fact is revealed and between sections. At first Genny sounds like real disadvantaged trash. As the story progresses, we learn that she looks up words and studies classical music and art (to impress the cultured lover) and as she reaches to improve her knowledge, her voice softens. She takes on some of the fastidious "great lady" qualities of her patient, Stella, even as we learn that Stella was considered and treated as "a little nothing" in her own prime!
I feel like I know these people. Right away I sent for a reading copy of the book to go to my elderly English friend, Anne, living in Alabama. (She gobbles!) This is a book to set aside as a real treat on a long weekend or New Year's Eve when you don't have a date. Enjoy!
"Stevenson + Vine/Rendell = good audiobook"
Until fairly recently, I didn't realize that A-list film actors recorded audiobooks. But apparently, quite a few have, and this recording of The Brimstone Wedding, narrated by the redoubtable Juliet Stevenson, is an example.
Like one of the characters in the novel, I think I'll now always have certain mental associations of wheat fields, farmers, tractors, and "the countryside" in general. The book's entire action takes place in the country; no London scenes here.
She is everything a narrator should be: warm, intimate voice and intonation that invite themselves into the listener's mental "space;" good at various accents; good at performing voices for a sex different than her own (men); and an intelligent phrasing and enunciation. I liked the way she handled the accent of the main narrator, Jenny/Genevieve, because unlike some other actors playing country characters, she didn't make the character seem overly naive or diminished in intelligence. Being from a rural area and having little formal education does not make one stupid or a figure of fun! In Stevenson's hands, Jenny/Genevieve always seems bright as well as sympathetic, friendly, etc.
This isn't one of those Vine/Rendell books (like say, A Sight For Sore Eyes) that affected me viscerally while reading/listening. Towards the end, I even thought, "Really, are those all of the main plot points of the book--no more?" I didn't feel that punch in the stomach and lingering sense of doom that many Vine/Rendell books supply. The plot is much simpler and more straight-forward than I expected from this author. But it works in its own, subtle way. This would definitely reward a repeat listening.
Please note that this is a first-person POV/narration, and it is sometimes shared between two main narrators, neither of which I normally care for in novels, but it works to good effect here. There are also several flashbacks to previous eras (the 1950s and 60s). Also, if you've never read a Barbara Vine novel, you should know that these books are often not detective novels or police procedurals such as the ones the author writes under the name Ruth Rendell. The Brimstone Wedding is not a mystery novel, although there are mysteries within it that characters puzzle over, nor is it a thriller or suspense novel per se. It is, rather, a tale that is suspenseful and at times disturbing (though not, in my opinion, as disturbing as other Vine/Rendell novels). Enjoy!
"Absorbing Psychological Mystery"
The Brimstone Wedding is an absorbing mystery with a psychological twist. Juliet Stevenson interprets the characters brilliantly in this compelling and insightful novel.
Juliet Stevenson makes every character believable and sympathetic in some way. She pulls the characters off of the page and you feel as though you are in their world.Her acting complements the storytelling and makes it richer.
Slow start but gradually built to a wonderfully character driven story. Juliet Stevenson is a fabulous narrator. Anything she narrates is worth listening to.
"Well-written, but not a good story"
Let us just accept without hyperbole the fact that Juliet Stevenson is one of the best narrators ever and kept me listening til this one was finished. Barbara Vine, whom I had forgotten was a pseudonym for Ruth Rendell, is a very good putter-together-of-words, but not a good storyteller.
On to the story....lousy. Parts were absolutely incomprehensible; why in the world suppress the fact that a woman has died in a car accident, thereby ruining all future hopes of your own happiness? I don't buy the "shock" explanation; even in the bad old days, women were capable of simple reason. Unless in addition to being emotionally barren, they were deeply stupid, which is the direction I'm leaning here. The rest was quite predictable and very depressing. No doubt every woman and probably every man who embarks on a clandestine affair after marrying a semi- sweetheart who has never aroused much interest, let alone passion, is seeking an emotional connection, even - best case - emotional fulfillment. The heroine is quite likable, making this a particularly sad case, but also surprising, considering her own family's history with infidelity. Really, Jenny? You were surprised?
"Too long and predictable"
The narrator was excellent in this unexceptional but relaxing romance/mystery. Barbara Vine is Ruth Rendell whose books are often good.
"Juliet Great Story Lacking"
I love Juliet Stevenson so I enjoyed listening. I did not like the story very much.
I probably would need a friend to recommend one before I would read another Barbara Vine.
Juliet made the story somewhat interesting. She can do any voice well.
Only for the voice of Juliet.
"Shared pain and friendship."
Fate and un-fate. Deep love and fakery. Imagery of fire smoldering all through it. Love across generations and between kindred souls. Lucious narration! Another Barbara Vine/ Ruth Rendell weaving. Very good.
"the past and the present, & shared secrets"
Juliet Stevenson does a great job narrating, and adds to the good story by giving it real warmth and feeling. The story starts off a little quietly, but builds as the extent of the relationship between the Genny and one of her charges in the nursing home, Stella, becomes known. They share secrets, from Stella's past and Genny's present, and discover they have more in common than they could have known. Life, love, marriage, infidelity, closed pasts and open futures are mirrored and reflected between the two.
This is my second Barbara Vine story, and it won't be my last.
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