A tale of siblings, territory and revenge set in the South of France, this is a dark tale and the reader is kept in suspense about the nature of the tragic events until late in the book. It's also about people's relationship to the land and outsiders trespassing on this and on each other's lives.
Set in the hills of Southern France, Trespass is a novel about sibling love and rivalry, disputed territory and ultimately revenge. In the French corner are Aramon Lunel, resident of the Mas Lunel, and his sister Audrun who lives in a cottage in the grounds. In the English corner are Veronica Verey, a garden designer, and her partner, an untalented watercolourist, Kitty. The catalyst that brings these together is the arrival in France of Anthony Verey, Veronica's sister whose exclusive antiques business in London is failing and who decides to follow his sister in finding a new life in France. Aramon is tempted to sell his family Mas by the lure of `foreign' money even if that means that his sister's house has to be destroyed to secure the deal.
Multi-award winning Rose Tremain is a fascinating novelist because each of her books is very different. If anything ties them together it is the approach of from unexpected angles and a focus on unglamorous outsiders. Trespass is no exception - it's full of outsiders and they are always not easy to love. In fact, apart from the poor little school girl, Mélodie, who is left screaming at a gruesome discovery at the end of the first chapter (which we don't find out about for another 200 pages), it's difficult to feel much empathy of affection for any of the cast of characters.
Of course in real life, the obvious course for an antiques dealer in need of cash would be to turn up on day time TV selling tat in various auction rooms. Thankfully, Tremain takes Anthony Verey to the Cévennes hills. Of course, Tremain is not the first to set a book in the South of France, using the beauty of the land and the mysterious impact of the Mistral wind to bring disaster.
At times, some of her characters veer dangerously towards cliché. Why, for example, does Anthony need to have a penchant for young boys for example? It adds nothing to the story. His character is much more subtly portrayed by his amusing habit of appraising the history of every piece of furniture he encounters.
The story has a palpable sense of darkness about it. You know something bad is going to happen from the first chapter, but it's not clear what this is going to be or even to whom it will occur. Once it is clear what has happened, the culprit is not that much of a surprise but again, it's not clear if he or she will get away with it.
The book has important things to say about the clash of cultures and the whole importance of our relationship to the land. It's the English who are trespassing on French land, but also people who are trespassing on each other's lives.
I have to say that it's not my favourite of Tremain's books, but she's such an exciting writer that it's still a very good read. It's perhaps more unsettling and darker than her other books, and it keeps you guessing about the directions it's going to take. And I am still wondering about how poor Mélodie coped with her shocking discovery.