Monday, September 13, 2010
For the most part I am a live and let live reader. If you can barely wait the 20 minutes it takes for the next James Patterson to appear that's okay with me. Got that Dave Eggers monkey on your back? I'll give you a ride home anyway. Don't think that Rose Tremain is a Great Writer? Our friendship must end. That's all there is to it. If you haven't read her we can still be pals but don't think that I am ever going to stop trying to make you read her. (Believe it when I tell you I am the Michael Phelps of nagging.) When you do read her---and yes there will be a when not an if---you will see the power that is Rose Tremain. If you don't....then find a new friend or fake it.
Tremain's new novel is Trespass. Set in the Cevennes region of France, Trespass is about grotesque family relationships, collusion, shame, deception, land disputes, revenge with a capital R and a nasty discovery on the river bank. Successful garden designer Veronica Verey and her less successful painter partner Kitty are among the many Brits who have made this area their second home. Veronica's brother Anthony is a rich, disillusioned, 60-ish retired antiques dealer who moves in with Veronica and Kitty while he hunts for a suitable home/showcase in the area for his beloved antiques. His interest in possibly purchasing a dilapidated farmhouse is the catalyst for the events of the novel. It was the childhood home of siblings Aramon and Audrun. Aramon is an addict letting alcohol lay waste to his life. Audrun is surrounded by cocoon of bitterness and destruction.
The novel is organized by chapters that each end with a revelation and begin with renewed suspense. It's a very literary take on the Victorian serial. All these revelations fall out of the story with the same sort of logic as a sweater unraveling. Each pull leads to another in an unstoppable line. Each one adding just a little more weight, a little more unhappiness, a little more ugliness until the fabric is gone and all is revealed.
The physical and mental landscape of Trespass is well populated. Tremain excels at creating fully realized worlds. Among her best are: seventeenth century England in Restoration and the Danish court in Music and Silence, the New Zealand gold rush of the mid 19th century in The Color and contemporary immigrant life on England in The Road Home. In Trespass her dazzling skills take you in seconds from this France of British holiday homes and eccentrically quaint locals to grasping interlopers and home grown subversives. It's like going from Peter Mayle to Hans Fallada at the speed of a sentence. When I am lucky enough to be reading a novel by Rose Tremain I am deliciously overtaken by a writer who understands human behavior and desire and can write about those things in a the context of a story brilliantly. Her writing doesn't lecture to me, it invites me in to discover.
Happy, Happy, Happy