Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trespass, by Rose Tremain

Chatto and Windus
253 pp.

(read in August)

Veronica Verey (known as V) and her friend/lover Kitty live in a small village in the south of France. V is a garden designer, currently at work on a book called Gardening Without Rain. Kitty is a not-so-successful watercolor artist studying photography. The two find companionship in each other. Their home is an old stone farmhouse, and from the terrace they’re afforded a view of the beautiful Cévenne hills and "blinding red" sunsets. Kitty's happiness is "absolute" when they spend time on their terrace, drinking wine, taking in the view, listening to the birds -- but Kitty is also insecure, creating a sense of uneasiness between herself and V.

Audrun Lunel and her brother Aramon  live not far from V and Kitty.  They are in their sixties, living in the Cévennes village of La Callune where their family has owned and worked the land for generations. Audrun's father had left her a piece of the family land as her very own -- a wooded area where she built a bungalow -- for reasons I will leave unmentioned. Aramon remains in the family home, the Mas Lunel, once a U-shaped house, now only the back of the U remains. Now a drunken and broken old man, Aramon has virtually given up, preferring to sit and watch television while he drinks. Aramon has decided to sell what's left of Mas Lunel, learning that he could get a hefty chunk of money from foreign buyers for the place.  Although Audrun will still have her patch of woods and her bungalow, the thought of losing her childhood memories of her mother horrifies her beyond belief, and she can envision the changes that would come if Aramon were to sell the house. 

Enter Anthony Verey, Veronica's brother.  Anthony is 64, with a failing London antiques business. He used to thrive on the knowledge that people were envious of him and filled with admiration of his celebrity; now in his 60s, he realizes that what he sees now in the eyes of others is merely pity.  Even the young and beautiful boys he entertains no longer make him feel good -- in fact, seem to have the opposite effect.  Anthony also realizes that this is no way to continue on, and decides he's got to have that final shot at happiness.  As in the past, he turns to his sister V for rescue. He decides he will go stay with V at her farmhouse for a while; then once there, decides he should have a place of his own and make a fresh start.  This decision serves as a catalyst for tragedy as a series of events unfolds that begin to snowball out of control. 

Trespass is aptly titled; there are many varied forms of infringements that are threaded throughout the novel: emotional and physical, native and foreign, and even the boundaries of truth are encroached upon and violated. There's also the concept of trespass in terms of sin that is explored as well.  Another major theme is the past -- for some people the past is something they can never let go of while others want to escape it and move on.

The sense of place in this book is very well executed. The characters started out extremely strong, standing as unique individuals caught in their own lives as well as in webs of complexity within the scope of their relationships to others. The story was also strong and taut at the beginning, so much so that I couldn't put the book down.  However, in the second half of this book, at some point (for me, anyway) things became so incredibly foreseeable I continued reading just to confirm what I'd already figured out.  And it is also at this juncture that the characters started falling apart -- becoming just as predictable as the story and losing the depth that gave them so much life at the beginning.  But that doesn't mean that this is a bad novel. Au contraire; it is an incredible story and I found myself really liking it. And it's one I'd have no problems recommending. 

(so sorry about the font change..I have to figure out how to write in MS word & have it transfer with no changes. arrgh!)


  1. Great review, Nancy. This is definitely going on my TBR list. MS Word is a bear with fonts -- I put everything into Notepad before I put it into Blogger -- that seems to remove the HTML codes generated from MS Word. Best, Colleen

  2. Colleen -- it's definitely worth the read. I think you'll enjoy it. And thanks for the Notepad tip!


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