A Novel about Surrogacy

The Chimney-Sweeper’s Boy that Ruth Rendell published as Barbara Vine came out in 1998. I don’t believe since then anybody has written in such a nuanced and profound way about surrogacy, even though it’s obviously not called that in the novel.

The man in The Chimney-Sweeper’s Boy doesn’t push his children’s mother physically out of their lives. She lives with them and nobody doubts her rights as a mother. But he pushes her out emotionally. And even though he adores the kids and is the absolute best father anybody can imagine, the daughters grow up to become profoundly damaged, miserable women. It’s both parents together and the love between them that creates happy, healthy children. Surrogacy, even in the mild form described in the novel, is poisonous. The girls’ mother is pushed aside as unimportant and annoying. As a result, one of the daughters becomes a perpetual child, unable to grow into a woman, while the other finds joy in letting a man degrade her sexually.

The novel offers some hope in that at least the daughters know their mother and start repairing their relationship after the overbearing father dies.

It’s a very good novel.

Strange Paths of Grief

All day today I’ve been responding to Facebook messages, emails and phone calls about my father. I don’t know why it had to happen today and not be spread out across a week, for example.

Not surprisingly, I’m rereading Ruth Rendell’s novel The Chimney-Sweeper’s Boy that is about a larger-than-life father who adored his two daughters. He dies at the age of 71 at the beginning of the novel and they grieve him and start discovering unexpected facts about his life. It’s one of Rendell’s best novels. I have already read it 3 times, so this is my fourth go. This is a novel of incredible psychological insight. I highly recommend.


I’m obsessively, terribly scared of tsunamis. Which is quite funny given that I live deep inland. I should be terrified of tornadoes because I live in tornado-land. And I do fear them but not in an overwhelming, crazy way like tsunamis. I never lived anywhere that has tsunamis, so it’s not a fear based on experience. Psychologically, it’s my fear of being swept away and overwhelmed by a personality much stronger than mine.

And by the way, I feel nauseous with fear even writing this post.

What’s the natural disaster (if any) that terrifies you more than any other? I promise not to offer any psychological explanations because I only have my own and I paid a lot of money for it.


I don’t have the energy to read much new stuff, so I’m rereading my mystery collections. I have gone through all of my John Lescroarts and have started on my Ruth Rendells. I have 27 of her titles, which should last me a couple of months. She was a brilliant author and a kind, wonderful person. Many years ago, when it was impossible to find books in English back in Ukraine, she sent me a box of her books with a long handwritten letter, and I’ll never forget how much it meant.

Always Again

On 23 October 1940, the Holland House library in London was bombed in an air raid. This is an iconic photo of readers still looking ar books even when the library is in ruins:

It’s impossible to accept that this exact thing (minus the old-fashioned hats) is happening at this very moment in Europe again. Done by the same people again but this time not through a proxy but directly.

(Stalin engineered Hitler’s rise to power in order to partition Europe and have Hitler weaken its Western part in preparation for the big war Stalin was planning).