Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Piranha To Scurfy by Ruth Rendell

Piranha To Scurfy by Ruth Rendell
First published in the UK by Hutchinson in September 2000.
I registered my copy of this book at BookCrossing.

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the book from
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

How I got this book:

Swapped for at the book exchange at Serro Da Bica campsite, Ourique, Portugal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The long title story is about a man whose life, in a sense, is a book. There are shelves in every room, packed with titles which Ambrose Ribbon has checked pedantically for mistakes of grammar and fact. Life for Ribbon, without his mother now, is lonely and obsessive, filled with psychoses and neuroses, with the ever-present possibility of a descent into violent madness. He still keeps his mother's dressing table exactly as she had left it, the wardrobe door always open so that her clothes can be seen inside, and her pink silk nightdress on the bed. There is one book too that he associates particularly with her - volume VIII of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Piranha to Scurfy. It marked a very significant moment in their relationship. In the other stories, Ruth Rendell deals with a variety of themes, some macabre, some vengeful, some mysterious, all precisely observed. The second novella, High Mysterious Union, explores a strange, erotic universe in a dream-like corner of rural England, and illustrates very atmospherically what range Ruth Rendell has as a writer, expanding beyond her famous sphere of crime writing.

At the time of reading this book, maybe three years ago now, I wasn't particularly a short story fan. However I enjoyed this collection and have since come to appreciate the genre much more. The eleven tales range from the mysterious to the macabre and I particularly appreciated the two novellas, Piranha To Scurfy and High Mysterious Union. Rendell is an astute observer of a particular type of middle-class Englishness and these two stories certainly showcase her writing. Piranha To Scurfy reminded me of an Alan Bennett Talking Heads sort of person, albeit even darker! The Beach Butler was my favourite of the short stories.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Ruth Rendell / Short stories / Books from England


  1. I've yet to fully commit to reading any short story collection. Hopefully one day...

    1. I tend to read a collection all in one go. If I dip in and out, I get distracted and forget to finish

  2. I don't often read short story collections myself. I usually find them mixed with stories I love and some I really didn't like. But I am glad you could enjoy this collection more upon rereading it.

    1. This collection was a little hit and miss for me, but overall a good showcase of Rendell's style