Grasshopper

Grasshopper

by Barbara Vine, Ruth Rendell

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Overview

“They have sent me here because of what happened on the pylon.”
When Clodagh Brown writes these words at the age of nineteen, she believes that she is leaving behind the traumatic events of her youth. But Clodagh soon learns that you can never entirely escape your past.

In the aftermath of the incident on the pylon--one of the great electrified structures that dot the English countryside like so many gargantuan grasshoppers--Clodagh goes off to university, moves into a basement flat arranged by her unsympathetic family, and finds freedom trekking across London's rooftops with a gang of neighborhood misfits. As she begins a thrilling relationship with a fellow climber, however, both Clodagh and the reader are haunted by the memory of the pylon and of the terrible thing that happened there--and by the eerie sense that another tragedy is just a footfall away.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307426093
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/18/2007
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 694,169
File size: 553 KB

About the Author

The new Barbara Vine novel, The Blood Doctor (1-4000-4504-5), will be published by Harmony Books in July 2002. She lives in London.

Read an Excerpt

They have sent me here because of what happened on the pylon. Or perhaps so that I don't have to see the pylon every time I go out or even look out of a window.

"We've thought of selling this house and moving," my father said. "Don't think it hasn't been in our minds. Still you won't . . ."

He left the sentence unfinished, but I knew how he would have ended it. You won't always be here, he'd meant to say. A girl of your age, you won't live at home much longer, you'll be off to college or a job, a home of your own. And out of sight, out of mind, he meant too. Gradually people will stop thinking of us as the parents of that girl, they'll stop asking what kind of parents we were to bring up a girl who would do that, and they'll stop staring and pointing us out. Especially if you don't come home very often. Maybe they'll think you're dead. Maybe we'll tell them you are.

That last bit was in my imagination. I'm not saying they wish me dead. They have my welfare at heart, as my mother puts it. Which must be why they were so happy--happier than I've seen them since before the pylon day--when Max made his offer. The best they'd hoped for was a room in whatever accommodation the college had available or for me to be the fourth girl in a shared flat somewhere.

"A whole flat to yourself," my mother said, "and in a lovely part of town."

I had a picture in my mind then of rows and rows of mock-Tudor houses, striped black and white like zebras, with pampas grass in their front gardens and Audis outside their garages. Daniel and I had seen plenty of them, riding around the ring roads on his old Motoguzzi. Our London was the outer suburbs, Waltham Cross and Barnet, Colindale and Edgware, Uxbridge and Richmond and Purley. We counted the pylons and took photographs of the barbed-wire guards on their legs. We never penetrated as far as Maida Vale and we'd never heard of Little Venice. But still I thought "a nice part of town" must mean houses like our house. How Max could have a flat in it, I couldn't imagine. Flats were in blocks, there had been plenty of those up along the North Circular Road too, great sprawling flat-roofed buildings painted custard color with their names in letters of black or silver: Ferndean Court and Summerhill and Brook House. So when I got here this afternoon I wasn't prepared for what I found.

My father had been going to drive me. It's what parents do when their child goes off to college and a new place to live in. I've seen enough of it to know. They pack up the trunk of the car and all the back of the car too, with clothes and sports gear and books and radio and CD player and maybe a computer and, of course, a hamper of food. It's a joyful occasion, a turning point in someone's life, and if it's the dad driving and the mother left behind, she's tearful but she's smiling too, calling out "Good luck" and making the departing one promise to phone as soon as she's settled in and not to forget the cold chicken in the hamper and the homemade cake. My leaving home wasn't like that. I wouldn't have expected it to be and I never had much faith in my father's promise. As it happened, the car went in for service the day before and the garage phoned and said they'd like to keep it for another day to have a look at the electrics. Maybe Dad didn't fix it that way. I expect it was just a piece of luck for him. Anyway, they said it couldn't be helped, I'd just have to manage on the train.

So I left in much the same way as I've lived these past two years, under a cloud. After the pylon my parents had counseling, just as I did, and the counselor told them they had to be understanding and supportive. It was their responsibility to help me put all that behind me and make a fresh start, not blame myself and feel guilty all the time. But they couldn't. I suppose they couldn't help themselves. I think they really saw me as evil. One of the ways they dealt with it was to tell me they didn't "know where I got it from," as if every action you performed and every mistake you made had been made by a string of ancestors before you and passed on in a gene of thoughtlessness or daring--or evil. This morning and all through lunch they were giving me those looks that are a mix of wonderment and--well, resignation, I suppose. And I could see something else there too: relief, hope maybe, a fresh start for them as well.


They have sent me here because of what happened on the pylon. Or perhaps so that I don't have to see the pylon every time I go out or even look out of a window.

"We've thought of selling this house and moving," my father said. "Don't think it hasn't been in our minds. Still you won't . . ."

He left the sentence unfinished, but I knew how he would have ended it. You won't always be here, he'd meant to say. A girl of your age, you won't live at home much longer, you'll be off to college or a job, a home of your own. And out of sight, out of mind, he meant too. Gradually people will stop thinking of us as the parents of that girl, they'll stop asking what kind of parents we were to bring up a girl who would do that, and they'll stop staring and pointing us out. Especially if you don't come home very often. Maybe they'll think you're dead. Maybe we'll tell them you are.

That last bit was in my imagination. I'm not saying they wish me dead. They have my welfare at heart, as my mother puts it. Which must be why they were so happy--happier than I've seen them since before the pylon day--when Max made his offer. The best they'd hoped for was a room in whatever accommodation the college had available or for me to be the fourth girl in a shared flat somewhere.

"A whole flat to yourself," my mother said, "and in a lovely part of town."

I had a picture in my mind then of rows and rows of mock-Tudor houses, striped black and white like zebras, with pampas grass in their front gardens and Audis outside their garages. Daniel and I had seen plenty of them, riding around the ring roads on his old Motoguzzi. Our London was the outer suburbs, Waltham Cross and Barnet, Colindale and Edgware, Uxbridge and Richmond and Purley. We counted the pylons and took photographs of the barbed-wire guards on their legs. We never penetrated as far as Maida Vale and we'd never heard of Little Venice. But still I thought "a nice part of town" must mean houses like our house. How Max could have a flat in it, I couldn't imagine. Flats were in blocks, there had been plenty of those up along the North Circular Road too, great sprawling flat-roofed buildings painted custard color with their names in letters of black or silver: Ferndean Court and Summerhill and Brook House. So when I got here this afternoon I wasn't prepared for what I found.

My father had been going to drive me. It's what parents do when their child goes off to college and a new place to live in. I've seen enough of it to know. They pack up the trunk of the car and all the back of the car too, with clothes and sports gear and books and radio and CD player and maybe a computer and, of course, a hamper of food. It's a joyful occasion, a turning point in someone's life, and if it's the dad driving and the mother left behind, she's tearful but she's smiling too, calling out "Good luck" and making the departing one promise to phone as soon as she's settled in and not to forget the cold chicken in the hamper and the homemade cake. My leaving home wasn't like that. I wouldn't have expected it to be and I never had much faith in my father's promise. As it happened, the car went in for service the day before and the garage phoned and said they'd like to keep it for another day to have a look at the electrics. Maybe Dad didn't fix it that way. I expect it was just a piece of luck for him. Anyway, they said it couldn't be helped, I'd just have to manage on the train.

So I left in much the same way as I've lived these past two years, under a cloud. After the pylon my parents had counseling, just as I did, and the counselor told them they had to be understanding and supportive. It was their responsibility to help me put all that behind me and make a fresh start, not blame myself and feel guilty all the time. But they couldn't. I suppose they couldn't help themselves. I think they really saw me as evil. One of the ways they dealt with it was to tell me they didn't "know where I got it from," as if every action you performed and every mistake you made had been made by a string of ancestors before you and passed on in a gene of thoughtlessness or daring--or evil. This morning and all through lunch they were giving me those looks that are a mix of wonderment and--well, resignation, I suppose. And I could see something else there too: relief, hope maybe, a fresh start for them as well.

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Grasshopper 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Laura5Burgess on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A departure for Rendell/Vine who usually writes superb murder mysteries. I find the writing here superior to her mystery work, she takes chances and uses her skill at getting in her character's heads to tracing the mental illness brought on by a teenagers shame over her guilt in a friend's death towards resolution.
karenzukor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. A coming-up-age story with electricity. Literally.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Of all the plotless, self-indulgent, meandering, drag-as-many-outlandish-character-names-in-as-possible books I have read by Barbara Vine, I think this is the very worst
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first of the Barbara Vine novels I've read. I found it hard to follow until I grasped her writing style. This was a wonderful book! So real and interesting that I continue to think of, and miss, the characters at Silver's flat. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading everything she writes both as Ruth Rundell and Barbara Vine. I highly recommend this book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Clodagh loved to climb. And that proved to be her undoing. For she enticed her lover into climbing with her, when still in her teens,and he was devoured by a pylon. This is the starting point of the new Barbara Vine novel. It is not clear as to why Ruth Rendell dons the mantle of Barbara Vine to write some of her best novels. What is clear however is under the psedonym of Vine, Ruth Rendell creates some of her most delightful and complex character sketches.From Vera in a 'Dark Adopted Eye' to Sander in 'Gallowglass' to Lyn in Grasshopper, Vine allows all the human frailities to give her protoganists and the supporting cast lives full of meaning and substance in a time and space that is only comprehensible to the characters at that point, but later transcends into the readers' zone, compelling them to go back to her books again and again. In 'Grasshopper', the family of friends Clodagh acquires in London, brought together by their subconscious need to climb roofs is cleverly juxtaposed against the stolid but pretencious middleclass couple cousin Max and Selina, who offer her rentfree accomodation. It is in creating paradoxes like this that Vine excels: her law abiding charachters have all the pettiness and meanness one would associate with repression, whereas others who walk the dangerous line between risk and crime show an endearing generousity. Where Vine fails to raise her present work to the standards set by some of her earlier works like 'The fatal Inversion' and 'King Soloman's Mine' is when she tries to merge the flow of Clodagh's life with her deviant friends with the rather melodramatic kidnapping of a child by his foster parents which leads to the final denouement. She falters here and the same writer who makes walking London roofs believable gets into a bit of clumsy warbling here. But despite the flaws, Grasshopper is compelling reading.In her genre, Vine/Rendell continues to be the best. If at all she has competition it is from another English genius 'P.D.James'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There are no real messages in this book -- and that is the problem. It simply follows some lazy British 18-20 somethings, who are trying to find themselves... but they are too bizarre for the reader to care in the end. Especially when the only thing they care about, or seem to care about, is against the law. There are many better books that discuss similar topics.