Portobello: A Novel by Ruth Rendell

If you enjoy character-driven novels, you will like Ruth Rendell’s Portobello. Fifty-year-old bachelor Eugene Wren finds an envelope with a large amount of cash in it in London’s Notting Hill area. Instead of keeping it or turning it over to the police, he decides to find the owner himself. This decision puts Wren and his long-time girl friend, Ella Cotswold, on a collision course with a cast of characters each with their own problems and obsessions.

There is Lance who is attempting to start a life of crime by getting information from his Uncle Gilbert, a reformed criminal, and Joel who has a dark secret that has caused him to be estranged from his father for years. Wren, dealing with his own obsessions and fears, must make decisions about his own life and his relationship with Ella. All of these characters come together in a fascinating novel that will keep you turning the pages.

Reading this novel made me think about my own peculiarities and habits. Wren, in an attempt to control his weight, finds himself obsessed with a particular sugar-free chocolate sweet. He finds himself scouring stores for the treats and hiding them around his home and in his pockets so that he always has a supply. His obsession with this sweet eventually strains his relationship with Ella. I have a particular coffee shop I visit weekly for a particular latte and find this comforting. If I miss my visit to the coffee shop I may feel a little out of sorts. At what point does something become an obsession?

If you enjoy Portobello, you might enjoy The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes. Set in Dublin, the characters in this novel all live in the same apartment building. There are some elements of fantasy in this novel and parts of the story seem unbelievable. However, the characters and their interaction with each other make this a very enjoyable read.