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"Starred Review: No Tremain novel is like any other. This one is much darker but no less compelling than the celebrated The Road Home. Read her for her lushly descriptive settings, her deeply flawed but intensely interesting characters, and her imaginative plots." "Two pairs of siblings and their twisted pasts converge in this gripping, dark novel from Orange Prize-winner Tremain (The Road Home)... Tremain renders this untamed area with haunting prose." "A dark and unflinching novel... Tremain knows how to work the authorial searchlight... She grabs her readers by their ankles and dangles them over the abyss. She spares us nothing and she never lets us go." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Rose Tremain's bestselling novels have won many awards, including the Orange Prize (The Road Home), the Whitbread Novel of the Year (Music & Silence), the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Prix Femina Etranger (Sacred Country). Restoration was short-listed for the Booker Prize in 1989 and made into a film in 1995. The sequel, Merivel, was published to rapturous acclaim in 2012, and the Telegraph described the character of Robert Merivel as `one of the great imaginative creations in English literature of the past fifty years'. Rose Tremain was made a CBE in 2007 and was appointed Chancellor of the University of East Anglia in 2013. She lives in Norfolk and London with the biographer, Richard Holmes. www.rosetremain.co.uk
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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.
Tremain's prose is haunting, her language lyrical and descriptive and at the same time somehow sparse. The darkness in her characters' hearts is palpable to the reader, as is their growing despair. I found the novel to be at times unrelentingly grim, however, and though I was engaged in the story, I was more than ready to finish and shelve the book. I give it 3 stars - for the quality of the writing and for the power of the haunting feelings I was left with long after I was finished reading.
I feel foolish because Trespass is the first Rose Tremain novel I've read, and I absolutely adored her prose:
"Disdain--born out of a specialist knowledge, or what he thought of as a secret knowledge--was a habit perfected over forty years, and was now one of the few pleasures left to him." (p. 11)
I didn't know too much about this novel going into it, and the initial chapters all introduced different characters. I tend to really enjoy novels with seemingly unconnected characters whose paths cross. As a reader, you expect it, but I cherish that feeling of knowing more than the characters do. Tremain skillfully let the reader in on things the characters were oblivious to, but she also let the characters keep a few secrets from the reader.
I adored this novel. I was fascinated by the characters (and Tremain's descriptions of them), I loved the cadence of the prose, and I was amazed at the depth of theme. It's rare for me to picture myself writing an English paper about a novel, but I found myself scribbling notes on theme from the novel's early pages. The trespass in the title is one of land, emotion and personal boundaries. Tremain examines the notion of trespass from so many different perspectives:
'Anything that has existence can be stolen or destroyed. So you must be vigilant.' (p. 15)
The novel is set in southern France, and its first chapter comes from the perspective of a young girl who is new to the town. The reader first sees the landscape through the eyes of an outsider, but as the novel continues, the landscape becomes a character itself. The imagery of both the land and the people were incredibly gothic and mysterious. The land holds as many secrets as the characters.
"Even here, where life went along more slowly than in England, she could sense the restless agitation people felt to make real and tangible to them the fugitive wonders that flickered into their minds." (p. 72)
I loved both the story and its deeper thematic ideas. Trespass is an accessible literary novel with immense death. It's rare I want to reread a book as soon as I finish it, but I'm certain there are more subtleties and clues I've overlooked.
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.
What she saw will not be revealed until very near the end of the book, but the echoes of that sentence set up a sense of unease which will not leave the reader.
The story is about a once handsome but now decayed old stone building, a `mas', on a hill in the depth of the Cévennes. Symbolically, its wings have been demolished and in its central part the front wall has running down it a fissure which has not been repaired but has simply been hidden under a coat of plaster.
An elderly Englishman is looking for a place to buy and do up. The mas seems ideal to him. The owner of the mas is eager to sell, not caring that his sister, living in a mean little bungalow within its sight, was due to inherit it.
We are given memorable portraits of the owner and his sister - characters that seem to come out of Maupassant; of the Englishman; of his beloved sister with whom he was staying and who had made her home in a village near the mas with a woman friend; and of all the other people who figure in this novel, both living and dead. For every now and again thoughts of their past and of their long dead parents pass through the minds of all these people, and what is revealed is sad, often startling and increasingly horrifying. Intense hatreds are revealed - between the owner of the mas and his sister, between the Englishman and his sister's female lover - and the tension gradually mounts. The climax is unexpected - and is followed by a sad and exhausted coda.
All this is played out against the Cévennes countryside, its sights, smells, sounds and weather beautifully described. Nature herself is one of the characters in the story.