"I was three when she was born and remember with perfect clarity being told I was to have a little brother or sister to play with. This was the way my mother put it to me and I believed her, as what child would not?A tiny wisp of a book, 94 pages and it starts on page 9 in the edition I have, but worth seeking out. "Heartstones" is a traditionally gothic tale of a young girl with a mordant worldview living in a supposedly haunted house trying to decide, for a good slice of events, what to do about an impending stepmother. Hints about how other people see her linger, and pay off when there's a reversal tol how she sees herself. It's masterfully, scrupulously written. Rendell's gaze is always cold and shrewd, more honest than cruel.
"The reality is a baby the older sibling is forbidden to touch, for how would that elder one choose to 'play' with the interloper, the thief of a parent's love? By beating it to death, by stamping on its face, by taking the feeble wriggling body to the river and watching the current carry it away downstream. Those are the games to play with a new brother or sister--if the opportunity is given."
Ruth Rendell - "Heartstones"