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  1. I had a 7 hour round trip on the train on Monday for work and read this cover to cover that day. I had previously read a couple of Rose Tremain's books and didn't have strong feelings about them either way. This came out in PB just before Father's Day and the Orange prize made it jump off the shelf when I was in Waterstones buying father's day gifts. This is the story of Lev, an Eastern European man in his early forties, who leaves behind his five year old daughter with his mother to come to England to find work. He had worked in a saw mill, which closed down as all the trees had been cut down. His wife had died of leukaemia, leaving him bereft. The book begins with his coach journey to the UK and I was hooked early on when he is tries to stem his cravings for a cigarette by remembering "significant cigarettes" in his life. He remembers stories from home and is such an obviously sympathetic character, I cared about what was going to happen to him almost immediately. He sits with Lydia on the coach, a fellow countrywoman, and they become friends. We aren't told their nationality as Lev represents, I guess, the Eastern European "everyman" and our reaction to him. On arrival in London, he is surprised by the UK. He expects Brits to look like Alec Guinness in Bridge over the River Kwai and is shocked at how fat and pasty people are. He is still grieving for his wife and dealing with the guilt of leaving his daughter behind and desperately missing home. He doesn't speak much English and has his first "job" delivering leaflets for a kindly kebab shop owner for 2p a shot. Lydia eventually helps him get a job in a posh restaurant as a kitchen porter and the story really takes off. He shares a house with an alcoholic Irish divorcee, starts a relationship with one of the other kitchen staff, improves his English and starts to dream of starting his own business back home. Mostly through incredibly hard work, but partly through luck and people's response to his kindness, he assembles enough money to realise his dream. The book has themes of bereavement, nostalgia, friendship, longing and identity. I wonder if the author's treatment of Lev is somewhat idealised or maybe a little sentimental. He is *almost* too good to be true, but the story flows so beautifully and is so hopeful that I can forgive that. He sees individuals for who they are and understands why people receive him as they do, but sees Brits generally as a Daily Mail vision of the "yoof of today", which is a bit of a cliche, especially since he meets so many individuals willing to give him a break and who respect his work ethic and drive to succeed. I really loved his retreats into his memories, which sustain him through his trials and tribulations and really enrich the story set in the present. I liked the fact that the author doesn't allow him to fall in love and "replace" his wife easily and that this isn't, ultimately, how he finds fulfillment as this would have felt facile. I can see the flaws in this novel, especially its sentimentality, but I absolutely lapped it up. So much bad news in the world, sometimes so wonderful to read something with such a hopeful and positive slant on the world we live in, *even* if I don't quite find it believable. Zebra
  2. This is one of Rose Tremain's earlier novels, from the mid-eighties, and in spite of its confusing cast of characters is, as almost always, an accomplished and enjoyable read. The main character, I suppose, is Larry Kendal, and his struggle to give his new life in France some purpose. He is toying with ideas to re-start his swimming pool business with a grand pool constructed on the small plot of land on which he and Muriel now live - in what had once beentheir holiday home. A short way into the novel, artist Muriel has to return to Oxford to be with her dying mother. From this point we follow the various developments in the lives of Larry and Muriel separately, as they each follow their own paths. In Pomerac the novel follows the events in the life of Larry, his close neighbours, Gervaise, her husband and her German lover, and the other members of this small community as he gets to feel more and more at home, and as his magnificent swimming pool design gradually becomes a reality. Over in the UK, Miriam's mother, Leni, is very frail, but still wields great authority over a small collection of admirers by the strength of her personality and by the memories of a lively past. Miriam is quickly absorbed back into this group, and their relationships. Eventually the death of Leni, opposition to Larry's pool and the various sub-plots come to a head all at about the same time and the outcome for most of the characters is somewhat less than joyful. For me, the more peripheral characters were maybe given too much prominence in the plot - or possibly there were just too many of them. I found it difficult to care about all of them. But, still a well above average read.
  3. The discussion of Restoration can be seen in Twentieth Century Fiction, here.
  4. The Darkness of Wallis Simpson is the second of Rose Tremain’s short story collections that I have read and like those in Evangelista’s Fan, they are as good as I always expect of her writing. I still find the short-story form a little disappointing, but these are all interesting, unusual and thought provoking stories. I bought this collection on the strength of the title as I know nothing, other than the obvious, about Wallis Simpson. I certainly didn’t know about her final days, when her lawyer assumed power-of-attorney over the bed-ridden Duchess, who was suffering from dementia and had lost her power of speech. Tremain’s story imagines the confusion in Wallis’s head during those days, when her ‘carer’ demands she try to remember details of her life with the Duke of Windsor - who is a pale and shadowy, figure barely existing in her memory, compared to the more vivid recollections of her previous husbands. It did make me feel a little more sympathetic towards her. Some of the other stories include: A redundant East German border guard in 1989, tries to reach Russia by bicycling across Poland. A jilted man gets his revenge after 30 years A character in an impressionist painting tries to escape from the domestic scene. A single woman brings up her niece after her sister dies and her brother-in-law takes refuge in the local asylum And my favourite: An elderly man attempts to improve the lot of some penguins in a Wildlife Sanctuary (and in particular his sponsored penguin) and at same time come to terms with a childhood tragedy. As with Evangelista's Fan , a possible theme might be 'unfulfilled hope' - so not a jolly book, but each story says something worth thinking about.
  5. This collection of short stories, published in 1994 is just as good as I expect of her work. Even though I don't enjoy the short-story form (they always finish before I am ready to stop reading) these are some of the best I have read, with intriguing plots, and well rounded characters. I have been trying to spot an overall theme, and it seems to be mostly 'unfulfilled hope', so a little on the sad side. But each one a little gem.
  6. From this rather unpreposessing premise Rose Tremain weaves her magic in this her second (1979) novel. I don't think RT has ever disappointed me, not even in such an early work.
  7. It's 1684, 17 years after Robert Merivels rise, fall and start to clamber back up again in Restoration. Here he is again, as delightful a character as ever, wonderfully flawed but so human and basically good hearted, looking for a way to entertain himself after his adored daughter goes on an extended visit to friends. Cue a visit to Paris and the court of Louis XIV, where things don't go to plan but Merivel does meet an intellegent and good looking grass widow who makes no secret of her attraction to him. But Merivel has to flee back to England to escape her annoyed husband having acquired a bear on the way... There is so much that's very good about this book. Rose Tremain's writing is wonderful, her sense of period and scene setting is spot on and her charecterisations are suberb and Merivel himself carries all before him. But, it lacks pace. There's no narrative drive, the plot such as it is ambles along, rather like real life, going off at tangents occasionally but the only real tension is whether the King will commit the ultimate betrayal of his faithful follower Merivel (who is quite realistic enough to know how likely it is). It made the last part of the book rather slow going. It's still well worth reading though for all the many good things about it.
  8. 'At the age of five, Gustav Perle was certain of only one thing, he loved his mother.' So starts the story of Gustav, a quiet directionless boy growing up in penury in an unremarkable town in Swtizerland after the war, with his embittered, unloving and widowed mother. He makes friends with Anton, the new kid in town, Jewish, rich and a musical prodigy, destined by his ambitious parents for a glittering career as a concert pianist and they form a bond that lasts through growing up into middle age. This is a wonderful book. I hestitate to say too much - I picked it up in the library just because I'll automatically get anything by Rose Tremain, and I really enjoyed not having any pre-conceived notions about it all. All I can say is that it's a quiet story and utterly mesmerising, beautifully written ad one to savour.
  9. RESTORED THREAD January 2013 nonsuch 7th February 2011, 03:23 PM Although I enjoyed both Rose Tremain's The Colour and, with reservations, her The Road Home, Trespass is, for me, her best since Restoration . It deals with two pairs of star-crossed siblings, the English pair obsessively in love, the French pair in hate with each other. It sounds almost too neat to be true, but the characters are absorbing and their broken relationships haunting. The usual Tremain set-up of cultural contrast may seem a little too well-planned, but the earlier action in Pimlico, where antiques dealer Anthony Very is saved from suicide when his precious business fails by his sister Veronica's offer of a holday in South-west France and the later scenes in France are finely rendered. Anthony is an aesthete who falls in love with things, whereas his sister loves people, her companion Kitty Meadows, the feeble watercolourist, almost as much as her brother Anthony, whom she has vowed to protect. Jealousy strikes. Kitty loves Veronica. Veronica loves her brother, who now threatens to displace Kitty. All this intrigue is balanced - hardly the right word! - by the conflict going on between the French siblings - over property rights and boundary issues. The French siblings, drunken Aramon and his sister Audron, are raw and murderous, caught up in a property dispute going back for decades. Their love-hate relationship is clannish and barbaric. When Anthony falls in love with their decaying property, which Aramon would happily sell to any settler, while Audron would kill to retain it, all hell, so to speak, breaks loose. As I say, it all seems a little too neat, planned and predictable (deliberately so with the V's and A's of the names), and, indeed, the novel has aspects of the murder mystery genre about it - except that we believe in and are engaged by the characters. As if this wasn't enough there's also a further complication in the lost girl at a school picnic, who is of course from Paris, estranged in a rural setting, another outsider seeking escape, like the ex-pat settlers, like Anthony Very, Veronica and Kitty Meadows the failed artist, failed lover. All in all, a gripping tale, believe it or not! ------------------------------------------------- Barblue 7th February 2011, 07:57 PM I agree with all of your summation nonsuch. A truely readable book populated with fascinating characters. Perhaps there is an element of it being all too neat, convenient, or contrived, but we can and have said this about many novels here so fo rme it's an accepted part of the work. One other element I picked up was the troubled childhoods that can and do impinge, hugely in some cases, on the adult lives. What happens between Aramon and Audron as a consequence of their father's desires colours the remainder of their lives with disasterous results. The way Anthony and Veronica were treated by their parents, especially their mother, has devastating consequences. All this we get bit by bit and it builds through the story to the dramatic conclusion. The conclusion of course is devestating for the young girl from Paris. As a contrast to the lack of help and care given to the adult characters in the book when they were young, we are led to believe that girl's teacher will be her salvation. Yet here again, the young girl's parents seem too bound up in themselves to see her suffering or to help her. I could not put this book down. __________________ jfp 9th February 2011, 06:18 PM I have to say Trespass didn't quite live up to my expectations, which were perhaps higher than they should have been. I didn't find it as moving as The Road Home, the only other novel by Tremain I have read. That said, the evocations of hidden corners of rural France are spot-on. I have friends in various parts of the French countryside, and the point Tremain makes about the resentment caused by outsiders arriving and throwing their weight and their money about is a very good one. But for a really masterly study in dark family secrets in a French rural setting, I recommend Daughters of the House by Michèle Roberts. __________________ megustaleer 20th April 2011, 11:57 PM Trespass was one of the books we read for my RL bookgroup this last quarter. We met last night, and it was a unanimously popular (amongst those that had finished reading it). Here is my presentation, which will include some details already included by others in the foregoing posts: ----------------------- Binker 4th July 2011, 03:51 PM I finished this book a few days ago and hesitated to post because I wanted to gather my thoughts. I probably should have posted because I've gotten in to another book and my thoughts are still sort of scrambled. I liked the book a lot. I thought that the story of Aramon and Audrun was well-balanced. He certainly trespassed on her in some terrible ways throughout her life, but in the end, she paid him back, one trespass for another. I did not feel sorry for him, but I did for her. I thought once she had lost her mother's protection, her life was just a misery and it twisted her into the kind of person who could do what she did. I think everyone in that town knew what she had had to endure and so were gentle with and sympathetic to her. That helped her in the end--no one suspected what she had done--but she really led a terrible sort of half-life. But was the loss at the end so bad for her, given that her first love had always been the woods? I thought maybe it was a cleansing of evil. The story of Anthony and Victoria is much more common. One sibling takes and takes and takes and the other gives and gives and gives. I did feel sorry for Anthony and it's clear that Victoria was the stronger person and knew that her brother couldn't stand up to their mother's periodically poisonous treatment and their father's absence, both physical much of the time and emotional all of the time. But then they never left those roles, which was bad for both of them. He continued to trespass on her, so to speak, and she continued to allow it. I pretty much hated their relationship and felt sorry for Kitty, even though she wasn't an entirely sympathetic character. I also noticed that Tremain used the concept of "inappropriate" more than once. Of course, by the time I caught on, I had passed a few examples, but here are two that jumped out at me. Audrun has seen Victoria, Kitty, and Anthony come to look at her brother's house and comments about how they all swagger: "She found herself wondering, had Jesus of Nazerth walked along the shore towards the fishermen in this swaggering kind of way, when He summoned His disciples and they'd risen up from their boats and left their nets and all that they'd worked for, to follow Him there and then? Audrun knew this was an inapropriate kind of idea, a blasphemy, exactly the kind of thought that made ordinary people believe she was crazy." Then, after Kitty comes home, Veronica is shocked by her own behavior. This quote is part spoiler and part not--sorry about that, but I couldn't figure out any other way to do it.
  10. I'm not sure if I'm surprised there isn't a thread for Rose Tremain's The Colour or not. It was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. I'm listening to this and must admit I'm struggling. I think this is partly down to the reader, who has a very clipped British accent but with a very soothing voice which combined washes over me making it hard to concentrate, and partly because the narrative jumps around a lot. Aside from Joseph and Harriet there are a lot of other characters who make brief appearances with in depth back-stories, which all interconnect but not obviously. Joseph isn't a particularly likeable man, and although Harriet is growing on me it's taken 2/3rds of the book. I'm going to listen to the end, but overall I'm not sure it's going to leave too much of a long-term impression on me.
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