“Trespass” by Rose Tremain

“Trespass” by Rose Tremain  (2010) – 253 pages

 When we read about famous people or celebrities on the Internet or in magazines and newspapers, I don’t think we are necessarily reading to figure out how to bring our own lives up to their high level.  Instead we are usually reading to see how these luckiest of lucky people can screw up their lives or have miseries just as we occasionally do.   We are not reading to figure out how these people are superior to us.

 When reading “Trespass” by Rose Tremain, you need never worry about her characters being better than you are.  These characters, the women as much as the men, are usually wishing for the serious injury or death of someone else if not planning outright murder.  No one in “Trespass” is very good in any standard definition of the word. 

 I’ve been a fan of Rose Tremain for a long time.   After reading her two spectacularly good novels of the early Nineties, “Restoration” and “Sacred Country”,  I searched out her early work including “Sadler’s Birthday” and “The Swimming Pool Season”.   Sometimes Tremain gets written up and off as a writer of historical fiction, probably because of “Restoration” and “The Way I Found Her”.  That just is not the case – there is so much more nuance and depth of characterization in her novels than in most historical fiction.  Tremain is definitely one of the finest novelists writing in the world today. 

 “Trespass” will not be mistaken for historical fiction.  It is a modern story of a brother and his sister, the sister’s live-in girlfriend as well as a French brother and sister.  Most of the story takes place in southern France.  Besides the interactions of these five colorful characters, the novel centers on the buying and selling of an old rural French family estate.

One aspect of “Trespass” I particularly enjoyed was the structure of the chapters.  The novel has short chapters of only five to seven pages.  What I found special was that every chapter has some weird surprising twist that I wasn’t expecting,  Each chapter is a delight in itself, and the chapters fit together into a strong complete novel. 

“Trespass” is a ‘novel’ novel, only one entire story told in depth, not a series of somewhat related vignettes as so many novels have been this year.  I admire Tremain’s skill in imagining an entire novel and in developing these five characters.  Rose Tremain can imagine the entire world-view and get completely inside the heads of each of these characters.  There are not many writers today who could fully imagine such differing ways of looking at the world.   Not only the story but each character in “Trespass” is twisted in their own special way. 

I highly recommend “Trespass” as a novel for you to read and then if you like it as much as I did, search out more of Rose Tremain’s work.  I know I’m going to soon read “The Road Home”, an award-winning novel I somehow missed.  In the near future I will be reading “The Finkler Question” by Howard Jacobson, and that Booker prizewinning novel will need to be extraordinarily fine to surpass “Trespass”. 

    “I’m not very interested in charting a day-to-day familiar reality. I’m always looking for territory in which to explore the BIG subjects, the life-or-death stories.”

Rose Tremain

    “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”

Rose Tremain

7 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Tony,

    Stumbled upon this blog while searching for a book review and I loved it! I like your choice of books. Do keep up the good work and I am adding you to my blogroll 🙂


  2. Hi Birdy,
    I’m happy you have stumbled by and enjoyed my posts. I’ll try to keep them coming. Usually I post twice a week.
    I will check out your site as soon as I have some time to give it the proper attention. Thanks.


  3. You know Tremain much better than I do, but I agree with your assessment of this book. It has a number of very interesting characters and I love the way she carefully puts them into difficult circumstances. Not a great book, but definitely a very entertaining one.


  4. Hi Kevin,
    I’m going to go a bit off-subject here, but this morning I read this great review in the Guardian by Frank Cottrell Boyce of a new book of short stories ‘Aphrodite’s Hat’ by Salley Vickers, which had some good lines.
    “Short stories are the only form of entertainment left where you don’t quite know what to expect.”
    “Frank O’Connor famously said that it was possible for a bad writer to write a good novel, but only a really good writer could write a decent short story.”
    Just wanted to share these lines, get them out there.


  5. Wonderful blog! I in fact love how it’s uncomplicated on my eyes as well as the data are well written. I am wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which should do the trick! Have a nice day!


  6. I’ve missed out on this one but may catch up with it sometime. I enjoyed earlier Tremain but the Road Home didn’t inspire me overmuch – although my wife’s reading group seemed to enjoy it. Interesting to read your comments on this one


    • Hi Tom,
      There were a couple of Tremain’s books that I didn’t like as much as the others; these were “Music and Silence” and “The Colour”.So I skipped “The Road Home” and only resumed with “Trespass”. I liked “Trespass” so well I’ll probably read “The Road Home” because it was a prize-winner.


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