The Saint Zita Society

by Ruth Rendell (Hutchinson) R235, 00 ISBN: 9780091944056 



The workers of Hexam Place, an exclusive street of Georgian houses, decide to form The Saint Zita Society. Zita was the patron saint of domestic workers. 

Rendell fills the pages with psychologically damaged characters. Upstairs, we have the unhappily married Preston and Lucy Still; The Princess; Dr Jefferson; Lord and Lady Studley; Damian and Roland. Downstairs, we have au pair, Montserrat, nanny, Rabia and cook, Zinnia; housekeeper, June; chauffeur, Beacon, gardener, Dex; chauffeur, Henry; unpaid servant, Thea. 

Rad Sothern, television star, and Lucy’s lover, is accidentally killed by her husband. Montserrat persuades him to cover up the crime and the two dispose of the body. Dex, who tried to kill his mother as a child, and who has been rehabilitated, is then instructed to dispose of Montserrat by Peach, the god who lives in his cell phone. Henry, who is shagging both Lady Studley and her daughter, Huguette, appears for some reason or the other. Rabia, who loves the Stills’ children too much, watches as her employers begin divorce proceedings. Thea is about to marry Jimmy, although she doesn’t love him. And so it goes. 

Lost yet? I was. Constantly. As much as I love Rendell’s writing, I could not tolerate the extra characters in this book. It is a feat that she manages to weave some of their lives together. The book would have been better with half of them deleted. Rendell writes another urban caper. The problem with this one is the dearth of likeable characters, and lack of cohesive plot. I am not sure why I finished the book. 

Amanda Patterson
2/5

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The Moment - Two reviews

by Douglas Kennedy (Hutchinson) R170, 00 ISBN: 9780091795849

 

What an ordinary book written by an extraordinarily average writer. Perhaps that’s why readers like his writing? He makes his story seem better than it really is by using a few props. He gives his character an unusual job, throws in a few foreign phrases, and crafts seemingly ‘clever’ backstories. Until you realise they are all vignettes without substance.

 

Or maybe I’m just a dull reader who doesn’t get it at all. This book was a trial at 488 pages. When you start out with a protagonist who is essentially an emotional coward you have to work hard as a writer to get the reader to like him.

 

Thomas Nesbitt is supremely boring. He is an unsuccessful travel writer with a life of unsuccessful and unfulfilling relationships. We are supposed to be intrigued, to want to find out why he is this way. What was ‘The Moment’ that defined him?

 

Thomas Nesbitt’s father dies. He leaves him $300 000, 00 and he buys his own cottage on the way back from the funeral, ending his marriage. His wife files for divorce, he receives a package from Berlin and the story stutters forward.

 

Try as he might, Kennedy couldn’t get me to buy into poor Thomas and Petra’s love story, set against another prop – The Berlin Wall in The Cold War. I am unimpressed by his throwaway literary lines, and his references to obscure poets and well-regarded writers.

 

Amanda Patterson

1/5

 

Thomas, an American writers, fall desperately in love with Petra when they are in Berlin. So deep is their involvement that the author tells of their affair with graphic descriptions of the need they have for each other.

 

When Petra falls pregnant at the end of their affair, the enemy for whom she works, give her an anaesthetic and remove her baby. Only one thing in Petra's life is greater than her love for Thomas, only one love deeper. For which she pays dearly. 

 

Thomas finds out that she has been spying on him but does not give her the chance to explain that she did it in order to regain her son Johan, who was removed from her when he was small. The discovery of the spying is shocking and the break-up desperately sad for many years of their lives. 

 

Thomas finds himself in a loveless marriage and yet he has a daughter.  This book is beautifully written by a talented author. The end has a twist when Petra writes to ask Thomas to look after her son Johan. Highly recommended

 

Dee Andrew

4/5

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