Trespass by Rose Tremain

Often when a new book by a well established author appears it seems to be everywhere. Yet Rose Tremain’s Trespass, her first since the award-winning The Road Home, seemed to slip out very quietly.

Why? Was something amiss?

The opening chapter held great promise. Ten year-old Melodie is on a school trip to the countryside. She is new, and though she is with the group she is not really part of it. And so she wanders off, towards a stream where she sees something that makes her scream and scream…

It was well executed, it made me want to read on, I couldn’t pick out anything that was wrong, but it didn’t quite work. The prose was lovely but it didn’t quite allow Melodie to live and breathe as I was sure she could.

It would not be until much later in the book that Melodie would reappear; the story of what made her scream had to be told.

A stage was set:  the village of La Callune in the Cevennes, an unspoilt, mountainous region in central France. Wonderfully described, but a sense of foreboding is ever-present.

Four principal characters were placed upon that stage:

  • Aramon Lunel, an alcoholic who has retreated from the world and lives alone, with only his dogs for company, in his old family home.
  • Audrun, his estranged sister, who lives in a bungalow nearby, who feels that she has been wronged.
  • Veronica Vesey, a garden designer who has settled in La Callune with her companion Kitty, a mediocre painter of watercolours.
  • Anthony, her brother, a London antique dealer, drawn to the area where his sister has settled.

An interesting quartet. Two very different pairs of siblings, with very different backgrounds and relationships. None of them easy to love, but all of them perfectly and distinctively painted in Rose Tremain’s wonderful prose.

They remained characters on a stage though, until the balance was upset: Anthony decided that he wanted to settle and Aramon decided that he was willing to sell. And that set off a series of events that would lead to dark tragedy.

It was then that the characters came to life and the story began to sing. A story with so much to say about sibling relationships, about the importance of having a place in the world, about what happens when cultures clash.

As the end approached it became clear what Melodie had seen, and I wished that I could learn more of her story.

I have to say that this isn’t Rose Tremain’s finest work, but the quality and range of her past work set expectations so very high, and I realise now that it is a better book than I thought while I was reading.

I haven’t grown to love the principal characters, but I would love to learn a little more of Melodie and Kitty, and the place, the atmosphere and the themes are still swirling in my head

The style and the themes hit, but for me, the emotional side of the story didn’t.

I’m still looking forward though to whatever Rose Tremain may write next.

19 responses

    • It was a very intriguing opening, and yes good – just not as good as I’d hoped from the author’s past record.

  1. I’ve loved everything Tremain has written so far…I want to read this book even though you gave it a less than sterling review…Overall it sounds like a good book to me 🙂

    • Wendy, this was by no means a bad book, but because I’ve loved Rose Tremain’s past work so much I had to pin down why this one didn’t work as well. I’ll be interested to read your thoughts in due course.

  2. I agree – it was strange that this slipped out so quietly, especially as it was her latest after the Orange winning Road Home. Very different and for me not one that I was gripped by.

    Nice to see you back BTW.

    • I think that maybe this one was drowned out by the Orange longlisted books. For me it was like where I’d hoped for love!

  3. Thought provoking post. I really like Rose Tremain’s work but didn’t enjoy The Road Home as much as her other novels I’ve read, I wonder how I will find Trespass? But like your experience with this novel ‘I’m still looking forward though to whatever Rose Tremain may write next.’
    Last point I love it when books grow on me after the reading and they’re sometimes the ones that stay longer in my mind than ones I loved and devoured at the time of reading.

    • When an author’s written as many good books as Rose Tremain I think you have to give her the benefit of the doubt if she writes something you don’t like as much. This is definitely worth a try – I liked The Road Hom but, with the benefit of hindsight, it didn’t really stick.

  4. I’m surprised that this hasn’t been more widely read too. I do plan to read this at some point and your review has intrigued me. I wonder if I should start with some of her earlier books though, as so far I have only read The Road Home.

    • Lost in the deluge of Orange longlisted books maybe?! This is certainly worth a try, as are the very early books, but at the moment its the books in the middle that I like best.

  5. Thank you for this thoughtful review, especially as you’re obviously still thinking about Melodie and Kitty, the setting and the themes involved. The summary of those four characters is very helpful. I feel I would like to read more of Rose Tremain’s writing as I’ve only read The Road Home.

    • Hello Linda. This is definitely a growers, and I don’t think Rose Tremain has written a bad book.

      If I had to pick favourites I would go for The Colour and Music and Silence – but go for whichever calls you!

  6. I felt a bit detached with this one as well. Nothing I could quite put my finger on but having said that, I have thought about it since I read it a couple of months ago, so maybe it will grow on me in hindsight.
    I haven’t read The Road Home, but I would definitely second your recommendations for Music and Silence and The Colour.

  7. I’ve just reviewed this book on my own blog. Althought it’s the first novel of her’s that I’ve read – I agree – there’s something about the novel which stopped me enjoying it. It’s almost a great novel, but not quite. Maybe it’s because I’d manahged to predict the final revelations about a hundred pages in advance?

    Excellent review btw. You write very well.

  8. Pingback: The Trespass – Rose Tremain – Farm Lane Books Blog

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