A Dark-Adapted Eye: Discussion Questions

Dark-Adapted Eye

As part of Bas Bleu’s 2016 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus material about our Bluestocking BAM selection to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)

October’s Book a Month selection, A Dark Adapted Eye by Barbara Vine, was printed as an exclusive edition for Bas Bleu! Editor AG explains how this happened: “I kept seeing this novel on ‘best mysteries’ lists, but when I tried to find a copy, the only edition available was an expensive mass-market book with the tiniest type I’d ever seen—and a really unpleasant cover. I put on some reading glasses and read it anyway…and I loved it! So we approached the publisher, who agreed to print an excusive edition just for Bas Bleu, with a new cover, larger print (though it’s still smaller than we’d like), and a lower price point. We’re so excited to be able to offer this thrilling literary mystery to our customers. I hope you liked just as much as I did!”

  1. The epigraph A Dark-Adapted Eye defines “dark adaptation” as “a condition of vision brought about progressively by remaining in complete darkness for a considerable period, and characterized by progressive increase in retinal sensitivity.” How does the phenomenon of dark adaptation relate to the events in the novel?
  2. A few of our readers found this book to be a bit slow, especially at the beginning. Did you feel the same way? Did you find, as one of our customers so eloquently put it, that eventually “the stew of family dysfunction, secrets from the past, and sibling rivalry it depicts when it gets going” were worth getting through the somewhat elliptical opening chapters? Do you think the narrative device of slowly and tantalizingly revealing the details of the crime was a success?
  3. Is Faith a reliable narrator? Does her decision to discuss her family secrets with a journalist influence your opinion of her? Do you think her memories are credible?
  4. The pivotal moments from the novel take place before, during, and after World War II. Do you think the author was successful in evoking wartime England? What role did the war play in the tragic sequence of events?
  5. After the climatic nursery scene and the denouement, did you feel all your questions about what happened were answered, or do you still have some lingering doubts or suspicions? Do you think the reader is meant to know everything?
  6. A Dark-Adapted Eye was the first of Ruth Rendell’s novels to be published under the pseudonym Barbara Vine. While Rendell’s previous work had tended toward police procedurals, the Barbara Vine novels explore more psychological themes. Had you read any of Ruth Rendell’s work before this? Why do you think she chose to publish this title under a new pseudonym?

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4 thoughts on “A Dark-Adapted Eye: Discussion Questions

  1. I saw the BBC miniseries based on this book years ago and it really stayed with me. Was delighted to see it pop up as a Bas Bleu selection! I am hosting my book club this month and this was my choice. Enjoyed reading it even knowing the ending — I for one loved how the reader was immersed in the Longley family way of parsing out information.

  2. I read this years ago, and it’s one of the very best of Ruth Rendell’s books–and I’ve read every single one!

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