Book reviews, musings and waffle from a British lit addict

Review: ‘Trespass’ by Rose Tremain

Date finished: 11 April 2011

Rating: 3 stars

Format: Paperback

Source: Borrowed from my mum

Genre: Contemporary fiction

Published: by Vintage Books in January 2011

The Synopsis (taken from Waterstones.com)

In a silent valley stands an isolated stone farmhouse, the Mas Lunel. Its owner is Aramon Lunel, an alcoholic so haunted by his violent past that he’s become incapable of all meaningful action, letting his hunting dogs starve and his land go to ruin. Meanwhile, his sister, Audrun, alone in her modern bungalow within sight of the Mas Lunel, dreams of exacting retribution for the unspoken betrayals that have blighted her life. Into this closed Cevenol world comes Anthony Verey, a wealthy but disillusioned antiques dealer from London. Now in his sixties, Anthony hopes to remake his life in France, and he begins looking at properties in the region. From the moment he arrives at the Mas Lunel, a frightening and unstoppable series of consequences is set in motion. Two worlds and two cultures collide. Ancient boundaries are crossed, taboos are broken, a violent crime is committed. And all the time the Cevennes hills remain, as cruel and seductive as ever, unforgettably captured in this powerful and unsettling novel, which reveals yet another dimension to Rose Tremain’s extraordinary imagination.

The Review

My mum bought this book and read it first. We often share books and in the vast majority of cases her thoughts on how much I’ll enjoy it are spot on. So when she handed me Trespass and said, “I’ll be interested to see what you think…”, I was intrigued. Usually, it’s something along the lines of “Read this, you’ll love it!” or “The story in this is superb”. So I kind of felt like I was being experimented before I even started…

I’ve obviously heard of Tremain before, if only because I’ve noticed a sizeable line of her books in a book shop every now and then. I knew about the volume of work but I couldn’t have told you anything about the subject matter. Onto that subject matter…

Audrun and Aramon Lunel are brother and sister that are destroying each other. Perhaps even have already succeeded. They live almost in utter isolation at the Mas Lunel and their proximity torments each of them daily. I really felt for Audrun as a woman struggling with an unimaginable burden but was slightly repelled by her twisted focus. Equally, Aramon is a sorry man drinking himself into oblivion but, again, I found his history abhorrent and almost couldn’t bear to read about his sordid view of the world.

Anthony Verey is struggling in obscurity; running an antique shop with very few customers and a shadow of the former famous man he once was. He no longer connects with people and identifies only with the objects under his care: his “beloveds”, as he calls them. In his youth, Anthony was a respected valuer and noted expert – in his own mind, he is still the Anthony Verey. Needless to say, he is tormented and all but broken and looks to his older sister to save him.

Veronica Verey lives in France and has an overly-maternal attitude towards Anthony. Her partner, Kitty, is somewhat less enthused. The problem I had with ‘V’ is an almost complete disregard for anyone other than the Verey family. She claims to love Kitty but when Anthony arrives and starts taking over their lives, V turns her back on Kitty with an utter disregard for the pain she is causing. That said, I couldn’t find it in myself to feel too bad for Kitty because her hatred for Anthony seems solely borne out of jealousy and she has such a lack of personal identity that I found myself just willing her to stand up for herself!

As you can see, this is a book that is all about its characters, these five predominantly. I believe that one of my texts to my mum when I was about half way through read “What is up with the people in this book?!” Unusually, I managed to enjoy the book despite not identifying with any of the characters or even liking any of them! I wouldn’t want to know any of them and I certainly wouldn’t want to intrude on their painful world but they are disturbingly captivating.

The story, equally, isn’t an easy one to read. The subject matter can be tough and the relationships are destructive and harrowing. My A-Level English Literature teacher loved a bit of pathetic fallacy and I suppose it’s ingrained in my psyche somewhere that I should be looking out for it. This book has it in spades. As the heat builds in the story, so it builds in the Mas Lunel and the surrounding area. It was that that kept me reading. It might not always be pleasant but it is certainly compelling.

I’m not exactly clamouring to read more of Tremain’s writing straight away – I’m pretty sure my perception of humanity has been damaged enough for this month! However, I’m not completely put off and would possibly pick up another in the future. A mixed reaction, I suppose.

Overall:
This is a strange book with some tough subject matter but the tension is engineered brilliantly and the story is a blend of heartache, memories and, of course, trespass. – this is a good read for a hot summer’s day and will stay with you for a while after you finish it.