Tremain's insightful novel is set in southern France, a drama evoked by the relationships of two sets of siblings. Aramon Lunel occupies Mas Lunel in the heavily forested countryside, the cultivation of silkworms of its earlier years lost to the past. Aramon's sister, Audren, occupies a homely building on the edge of her brother's property, as victimized as an adult as she was as a child, given to "episodes" that require medication. Veronica Verey, a garden designer, occupies Les Glaniques with her life partner, Kitty, their home lush with Veronica's spectacular gardenscape. Veronica's brother, Anthony, a noted antiques dealer in London, has reached a crisis in his life, leaning on his older sister for support as he considers a major move to France. All of these characters are over sixty, each set of siblings with defining histories, soon to cross the boundaries of one another's lives through Anthony's new venture.
Mining the personalities of her major protagonists, the author strikes a rich vein: Aramon Lunel eager to profit from his inheritance after plundering its beauty, savoring the opportunity to further antagonize his long-suffering sister; small in stature and voice, Audren has been trampled by a family made more intransigent by her mother's death, at the mercy of a brutally insensitive father and brother; the accomplished, confidant Veronica Verey content with her relationship with Kitty until the arrival of her beloved brother; and Anthony Verey, anxious to reinvent himself, leaving behind but a few of the possessions he calls "my beloveds" and the ever less frequent evenings with virile young men. Perhaps it is age that lends this novel its emotional impact, the unbreakable bonds of loyalty and the ease of betrayal, Tremain's exploration of childhood memory tangled with the insecurity of diminishing years: "Old age comes in short flurries. Between the flurries... there's a sort of respite." Seeking this respite, Anthony becomes a catalyst for conflict.
The author creates a symphony of image and sound, the sigh of a breeze in the forest at night, the hush of rain on a parched garden, the "little twist of agony in her heart" when Kitty realizes Veronica will always choose Anthony over her, ultimately, "the damage of trespass", when balance is breached, harmony destroyed, revenge extracted. As layered as the dark secrets in her characters' hearts, this is a novel to be savored for its language and piercing revelations, the savage economy of a brother's cruelties, the elastic bonds of affection planted in childhood, even a shocking discovery by a little girl who stumbles upon horror. Tremain's work grows richer, her rendering of humanity both poignant and terrifying in its accuracy. Luan Gaines/2010.