When I bought Portobello Road, I was hoping for a good, cosy book to read at the weekend. I had seen it a few times, but passed it by because of the reviews. This time, I figured it couldn’t be that bad, it was Rendell after all. Unfortunately, this was another of those that’s just not my type of book. It’s similar to The Water’s Lovely in that the reader is given insight into the lives and thoughts of 4 people, all of whom are or will be connected to each other in odd ways.
Eugene and Ella are a couple whose relationship is heading towards marriage. They’re happy together and lead good lives. Eugene, however, is prone to addiction and in an effort to lose weight, starts eating sugar free sweets and can’t stop. It becomes his substitute addiction and even though it’s harmless enough, it threatens his sense of well-being. Lance is a young “job seeker” who has a slight history of domestic violence and comes from a family of thieves. He’s still in love with his girlfriend who has kicked him out and living with his uncle, a reformed burglar now heavily into religion. In contrast to Eugene and Ella, Lance is not happy. Their paths cross for the first time when Eugene finds an envelope with money and advertises that the owner may collect it from him on proof that the money really is theirs. Lance sees this as an opportunity to possibly cash in on a little extra money and tries his luck with Eugene.
I hate to say it, but I found this book, rather one specific part of the story, tedious. Eugene’s “addiction” is annoying to say the least and I was continually amazed at Rendell’s ability to continue writing about it. I swear if I hear anyone mention the word choc-orange again, I may scream. As an introduction into the thought processes of an addict, it may well be spot on and as a study possibly interesting; however, in the context of a novel it becomes mind-numbing to say the least. Half of the time spent on that subject alone would have been enough. I suppose that Rendell did get her point across though. If I found it enough to destroy it a good read, someone like Eugene would find the habit debilitating. Still, I could have lived without it. Aside from that, the story was fairly good and, as always with Rendell, well written. Still, the whole choc-orange addiction killed it for me, so it only rates a 2 out of 5.