After several failed attempts to write about people in their 20s and 30s (whom Rendell doesn’t and can’t be expected to understand), the 84-year-old author has finally written about the subject she can discuss better than most: the elderly people. I’ve been wondering why Rendell was avoiding writing about the elderly. Any book by her is bound to be an instant best-seller but a book about people in their 70s, 80s and 90s will be of interest practically to anybody.
The Girl Next Door, Rendell’s clumsily titled 2014 novel, is immeasurably better than the Tigerlily’s Orchids (2010) and The Saint Zita Society (2012). Gone are the 20-year-olds who look up phone numbers in paper reference books and wait for something called “a morning newspaper” to be delivered to find out the news. Rendell finally turns to narrating the sensibilities of the people who still remember World War II and who have lived through the incredible transformations that have taken place since then.
There is very little murder mystery in this novel but I, for one, didn’t miss it. Of far greater interest to me was the story of a feminist awakening of a character in her 70s. It is never too late to start one’s life anew, experience, love, sex, rage, or undergo a complete transformation of one’s worldview.And if you doubt this, make sure you read Ruth Rendell’s novel The Girl Next Door.