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A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986) is a psychological thriller novel by Ruth Rendell, written under the nom-de-plume Barbara Vine. The novel won the American Edgar Award. It was adapted as a television film of the same name in 1994 by the BBC.

A Dark-adapted Eye
First edition (UK)
AuthorBarbara Vine (Ruth Rendell)
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreCrime / Mystery novel / Psychological thriller
Published1986 (Viking/UK)
Media typePrint/Audiobook
Pages304 (paperback)
Followed byA Fatal Inversion 


Plot summaryEdit

Largely set during World War II, the story is told by Faith Severn, who at the prompting of a true-crime writer recounts her memories of her aunt, the prim, fastidious, and snobbish Vera Hillyard. Vera's life is initially centred on her beautiful younger sister, Eden, even to the exclusion of her own son, Francis, with whom she has a poor relationship. Later, Vera has a second son, Jamie, to whom she is intensely devoted, while Eden marries the scion of a wealthy family.

When Eden is unable to have children with her husband, she begins to demand custody of Jamie, who she claims is being poorly raised by Vera. To the bewilderment and shock of the rest of the family, the custody battle escalates to violent levels, leading to tragedy and a series of disturbing revelations.

TV adaptationEdit

A Dark-Adapted Eye was dramatised (with the storyline significantly altered) by the BBC in 1994.[1] The production starred Helena Bonham Carter as Faith, Celia Imrie as Vera, Sophie Ward as Eden, Robin Ellis as John, William Gaminara as Andrew, and Steven Mackintosh as Francis. Ciarán Hinds plays an Italian lawyer invented for the purposes of this production.

This psychological mystery/thriller, adapted from Ruth Rendell's novel of the same name, depicts a family on the edge. Two sisters, the elder, obsessive Vera, and the younger, manipulative Eden, cut a path of secrecy and jealousy that leads to disaster.

A note on the titleEdit

A dark-adapted eye is one that has adjusted to darkness so that it is able to discern objects. In the context of the novel, the title refers to Faith's ability, after many years, to examine and analyze her family's history and its tragedy.


External linksEdit