Autodidact: self-taught


A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell

by V. L. Craven

The name of my novel is The Sisters Papin because the twins in it call themselves the Papins (which were real sisters who killed their mistress in 1930s France). I’m interested in their case and in my research I came across a mention of them in Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone .

As always with Rendell’s writing I’m struck by her grasp of human psychology (something she uses to great effect in third person omniscient and something I aspire to being able to do well). What follows are quotes that either worked quite well, were particularly incisive or struck some sort of chord with me and my characters.

-1- It was as if a coldness, almost an icy breath, emanated from her.
-2- At last Eunice smiled. Her eyes remained cold and still, but her mouth moved.

These so perfectly describe one of my protagonists I’m going to have a difficult time describing her in other ways.

-3- …they spoke of how their love must remain for ever secret, never of course to be consummated. And though they married other people, their passion endured and was whispered of as something profound and indefinable.

This is about a step-brothers feelings for his sister. He reads a lot and thus has an active inner life. For my part, I’m very interested in ill-defined relationships where both parties know how the other feels even if they never speak about it. Surely, these only exist in fiction, where the author can know they both know.

-4- Like all true eccentrics, he thought other people very odd.

-5- She spoke to no one about her emotions or her views on life.

I find people who never discuss their thoughts to be fascinating. I realise that I don’t share my thoughts with others IRL and they find this interesting, so I should resign myself to the fact that other people are doing what I’m doing and simply realise other people really don’t care about their thoughts. Though some part of me wonders if those people even really have thoughts.

-6- selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live

-7- ‘Some people like being alone.’ He looked vaguely round his room, at the heap of orange clothes, the muddle of books and dictionaries, the stacks of half-finished essays on subjects not in the Magnus Wythen curriculum. He loved it. It was better than anywhere else except possibly the London Library…But they won’t let you rent a room in the London Library, or Giles would have been at the top of their housing list.


-8- She also suffered from a particular form of paranoia. She projected her feelings on to the Lord. … It was not she who found fault with [people] and hated them, but God; not she but God on whom they had inflicted imaginary injuries.

I know people like this! I despise them! I mean, my imaginary parental figure despises them and will punish them for eternity.

-9- Norman was one of those people—and they are legion—whose ambition is to keep a country pub or shop. He had never lived in the country or run a grocer’s, but that was what he wanted.

I know people like this, too! They’ll be punished forever, as well. What a bunch of daydreaming idiots.

-10- Friendship often prospers best when one party is sure she has the ascendancy over the other.
-11- Melinda was not expected home, and Giles didn’t count. It was rather like having a harmless resident ghost… It stalked the place, but it didn’t bother you or damage things, and on the whole it kept quietly to the confines of the haunted room.
-12- The admonitions of those who seldom remonstrate are more effective than the commands of naggers.

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