Thursday, 1 April 2010

Rose Tremain: Trespass

This is Rose Tremain’s first novel since the Orange Prize winning ‘Road Home’ which I thought was one of her least successful books. So I began reading ‘Trespass’ on the plane to Italy with some reservations - afraid to feel that sense of let-down after all the anticipation of a favourite author.
But this time I wasn’t disappointed. Rose Tremain’s prose is as glorious as ever. ‘Trespass’ is set in London and France. Veronica Verey and her companion Kitty have moved to the Cévennes region of France, ‘incomers’ into a rural French community which views even Parisians as outsiders and has very mixed feelings towards an influx of colonising Brits.
Veronica’s brother Anthony (the Anthony Verey) is an antique dealer in Chelsea, badly affected by the economic downturn and wondering whether he, too, might be happier in France. His search for the ideal property brings him into contact with Aramon, an alcoholic farmer and his elderly sister Audrun, when Aramon puts the family home, Mas Lunel, on the market.
The collision between the two cultures re-animates uncomfortable memories and old rivalries which result in a tragedy which is not a tragedy, but revenge and resolution. Rose Tremain’s skill in unfolding this is so great that it’s only now, sitting down to write about it, that I can see the parallel she was setting up - the two sets of siblings, brother and sister, whose lives have been blighted by the actions of their parents, setting in motion a narrative arc of cause and effect that takes 60 years to complete.
The characters are wonderful - the stoical, resourceful Audrun, the spectacularly awful Anthony, the inadequate, insecure Kitty.
Rose Tremain’s writing is so good that I feel quite sad that so little attention was given to her collection of short stories - The Darkness of Wallis Simpson - when it came out. The title story is wonderful, and her tale of hope and loyalty in a newly liberated Germany - ‘The Beauty of the Dawn Shift’ - should be a modern classic. This is someone who can WRITE.

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