Already a fan of Rose Tremain, I came to this novel at the suggestion of a novelist friend. I was already in the process of reading a classical novel, featuring a protagonist I was developing no feelings for whatsoever. Within the first three pages of Sadler's Birthday, I immediately set aside that other book and embarked on the journey through Sadler's life.
Unlike a previous reviewever, I felt drawn into the life of this lonely man. I could immediately sympathize with his feeling that life, and everyone in it whom he ever loved, had simply past him by. The author, by her use of flashbacks, makes us see the sadness that has comprised Sadler's life. I also thought it very appropriate that the housekeeper should leave at the end, like so many before her.
Although the pedophilia in this novel is obvious and greatly disturbing, somehow I was not terribly disturbed by it. I thought of it as more a sad commentary about Sadler's life. From what we gather, Tom was the only person in Sadler's life whom he ever loved in a romantic sense. Yet, Tom, too, leaves him.
This book is haunting; all the more brilliant when one considers that it is Tremain's first book. One leaves this novel with a little piece of Sadler inside oneself. Sadler is someone we can greatly pity. More than that, the Sadler we meet when the novel opens is the person we most fear; the person we ourselves may one day become.