Ruth Rendell The Water's Lovely

ISBN 13: 9780385662697

The Water's Lovely

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9780385662697: The Water's Lovely
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The award-winning author of The Babes in the Wood and The Rottweiler brings us another terrifically paced, richly drawn novel of suspense and psychological intrigue.

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 always 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 towards her, its face submerged, and her mother said, absurdly, “Don’t look!”
The dead man was Ismay’s stepfather, Guy. Now, nine years on, she and her sister, Heather, still live in the same house in Clapham. But it has been divided into two self-contained flats. Their mother had lived upstairs with her sister, Pamela. And the bathroom, where Guy had drowned, had disappeared.

Ismay worked in public relations, and Heather in catering. They got on well. They always had. They never discussed the changes to the house, still less what had happened that August day. . .

But even lives as private as these, where secrets hang in the air like dust, intertwine with other worlds and other individuals. And, with painful inevitability, the truth will emerge.

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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.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER ONE

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 towards 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 side. 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 realises it’s the same room.’

I can hardly realise, 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 nine years ago, Issy, or is it ten?’

‘Nine. Coming up to nine.’

‘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 nine years, I suppose.’

‘I don’t think about it much any more,’ she lied.

‘Sometimes I think Heather’s forgotten it.’

‘Perhaps I can forget it now,’ said Ismay and she went downstairs to find her mother who was in the garden with Heather.

Forgetting isn’t an act of will. She hadn’t forgotten but that conversation with Pamela, that tour of her old home made new, was a watershed for her. Though she dreamed of drowned Guy that night, gradually her mindset changed and she felt the load she carried ease. She stopped asking herself what had happened on that hot August afternoon. Where had Heather been? What exactly had Heather done — if anything? Was it possible anyone else had been in the house? Probing, wondering, speculating had been with her for nine years and at last she asked herself why. Suppose she found out, what could she do with the truth she had discovered? She wasn’t going to share with Heather, live with Heather, to protect her from anything, still less ‘save’ her. It was just convenient. They were sisters and close. She loved Heather and Heather certainly loved her.

She and Heather downstairs, her mother and Pamela on the top floor. The first time Ismay saw her mother in the new living room, in the corner she had made for herself with her radio, her footstool, the handbag she carried everywhere, she watched her to see if her vague dazed glance wandered to the end of the room that was most radically changed. It never did. It really was as if Beatrix failed to understand this was the same room. Heather went up there with her when Pamela invited the two of them for drinks and it was as Pamela said. She behaved as if she had forgotten, even going up to the new glass door and opening it to check if it was raining. She closed it and came back, pausing to look at a picture Pamela had newly hung on the wall where the towel rail used to be and Beatrix’s bowl of coloured soaps had stood. Ironically, the only thing to remind you it had once been a bathroom was that picture, a Bonnard print of a nude drying herself after a bath.

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