Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, by Henry Farrell

Jane Hudson, a one-time child movie-star, cares for her sister Blanche, who was an even more famous actress, until an accident left her crippled. When a TV station starts a season of Blanche Hudson films, something seems to change in their relationship.

I've heard of, but don't think I've ever seen, the Bette Davis film, and so didn't really have much idea what this book was about. It's a thriller, and I have to say it was quite an effective one, although perhaps it feels a little bit dated in some ways (the book was published in 1960).

What I was most impressed with is how he managed to sustain the tension: it seemed as if it had (almost) climaxed fairly early on in the book, and I thought - there's nowhere to go from here, what's he going to do? And then there was a flashback to Jane's past and I thought "ok, so the rest of the book will be back-story, before we flip back to the present day and see how things turn out".

But no, the flashback was only a small episode and we returned to the main story which just got more tense. I was hooked, and on edge: this was a bit unusual for an audiobook for me in that I was switching it off to listen to the radio not because I was bored, but because I needed a bit of a break from the tension.

The only criticism I'd make is that the book had an unneccessary ending. <spoiler> The penultimate(? I think) chapter had Blanche on the beach, hardly able to move, and reading an article about herself from a sheet of newspaper which had blown across the sand to her. She lets go of the paper, and it blows away, and she sees her own face apparently moving as the picture disappears into the distance (I would quote it, because it was very nicely written). I thought the book should have ended there, but there was another chapter which sort of tied things up. </spoiler>

But, quibble aside, I really enjoyed this. No idea if his other books are any good but it would be worth trying, and I'd like to see the film too.

Completed : 17-July-2015 (audiobook)

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