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TRESPASS
by Rose Tremain
Chatto & Windus, March 2010
390 pages
17.99 GBP
ISBN: 0701177942


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Rose Tremain, winner of the 2008 Orange Prize for THE ROAD HOME, ventures into genre territory with TRESPASS – and emergences triumphant with flying colours.

Not that colour is something you'll see a lot of in this book. It's dark, twisted and intense, and a world away from those cheery tales of ex-pat Brits who've moved to France and spend the next 300 pages taking the piss out of the natives. Peter Mayle and the ghastly A YEAR IN PROVENCE have a lot to answer for.

TRESPASS intertwines the story of two families. Aramon Lunel is an alcoholic and his stone farmhouse, the Mas Lunel, hidden away in a remote valley in the Cévennes, is rotting around him. Nearby, his sister Audrun, alone in a modern bungalow, watches his decline and dreams of the family house that she believes should have been hers.

Into the area comes Anthony Verey, an aging London antiques dealer, with his wealth and reputation dwindling rapidly. He moves in with his sister Veronica and her resentful partner Kitty. Anthony is convinced that he can make a new start in France and sets out to view property. And the Mas Lunel catches his eye…

TRESPASS will give booksellers an interesting dilemma in which part of the shop to stock it. There's a murder in the book, certainly, but the whodunit is in no way the central prop; it's almost incidental in many ways. That part of the plot is dealt with perfectly efficiently, but again, that's not the book's attraction.

I've never read anything by Tremain before, but after TRESPASS will certainly be tracking down her back catalogue. It's a bleak and unsettling book, told in measured tones and with the most incredible eye for detail. No part of the landscape or the characters within it escape Tremain's gimlet stare.

It's a book, though, where you probably won't much care for any of the characters, most of whom are selfish, self-absorbed and faintly pathetic. Only Veronica, focussed on her Gardening Without Rain book and with an unbreakable sense of family loyalty, is one of life's copers. It's rather tiresome, though, that Tremain shows her gay and lesbian characters as being incapable of having happy and fulfilled relationships.

TRESPASS is a book about revenge and memory and family ties. Gorgeous is an over-used word, but it's really the only way to describe Tremain's writing. This book should be essential reading for anyone starting a creative writing degree, or hankering to become a writer.

§ Sharon Wheeler is a UK-based journalist, writer and lecturer.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, June 2010

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