Tremain knows the power of slowly built tension, she combines it here with a vivid, dark and richly invoked atmosphere creating a novel of great force.
What would you do to protect the things most dear to you? The things you love most fiercely above all else? How would you protect them against Trespass? Rose Tremain poses and explores all of these questions in this masterfully told story.
Tremain sets her story in the vividly depicted countryside of Southern France. The novel begins with a group of children who have been taken to the Cévennes for a class school trip. Troubled and unhappy pupil Melody however hates the countryside and in longing for her home in Paris , breaks away from her classmates. She stumbles upon a beautiful and calming river but in the very next second she omits a blood curdling scream that we don’t find out the origin’s off for another 200 or so pages.
We then leave Melody, not returning to her until much later on. But it is here that we meet Tremain’s expertly, and insightfully depicted characters. Deep in the heart of the Cévennes live Aramon and Audrun Lunel, brother and sisters who have spent their entire lives living in this secluded part of France. Yet there is a deep-rooted tension between them both. And whilst Aramon occupies their run down but beautifully built family home, the Mas Lunel, which he solely inherited after their fathers death, Audrun has been relegated to a small corner of the land, on a border imposed by Aramon. But the reasons for this spiteful and guilt ridden behaviour is not instantly revealed. Instead Tremain slowly and tantalizingly unveils their dark secrets. To tell you all of their history now would be to ruin the story for you.
Needless to say Aramon is an angry, alcoholic man trapped within in his own guilt, lonely in the Lunel, forced to live with his dark past, desperate to escape it. He treats his sister with cruelty and animosity but clearly he is falling apart. Audrun on the other hand is repelled by her brother and lives everyday in eye sight of the mockery Aramon has made of their once cherished family home. She dreams of getting it back, restoring it to it’s grandeur, cleansing it of it’s demons. But as long as her brother is there she must contend herself with the small but beloved land that she has been allowed.
So when Araomon reveals to Audrun his plans to sell the Lunel and leave the Cévennes, Audrun is left distraught. For years she has watched her wicked brother intrude upon a place that used to hold her happy memories, she has watched him desiccate it with his poisonous behaviour, but now a reality even worse could meet her. Her home, her rightful property, could be taken over by complete strangers.
The heat and tension of the novel electrifies even more and the fraught apprehension off all of her characters becomes contagious. Tremain then weaves into the novel the story of Anthony Verey, a man plagued and haunted by his demise from a once affluent and great antiques dealer to a lonely, aging man who spends unsuccessful days alone in his London antiques shop. Anthony is distraught by the reality of his morality, realising that time is not on his side he becomes determined to make one last grand gesture that will restore him back to Anthony the great.
Believing that London holds no more opportunity for him he decides to flee to his sisters home in France where she lives with her lover the shy and meek Kitty Meadows. It’s here that we see a parallel brother and sister relationship to the one between Aramon and Audrun. Veronica, his sister, is protective and loving. Her brothers troubles and woes become her troubles, even when his presence as a resident in her home threatens to ruin hers and Kitty’s love.
As Anthony begins to settle himself into Veronica and Kitty’s home, the tension brews,Kitty is intimidated and repelled by Anthony’s arrogant and self-assured nature, and worst of all his unwavering relationship with Veronica.
The touching and beautiful depiction of Kitty’s own relationship with Veronica highlights tragically the fragility of even the most fierce and loving bonds, Tremain displays keenly the depths people will go to when they sense trespass on the things most precious to them.
However when Anthony decides to go and visit the Mas Lunel, which he hopes he can restore in his last bid for glory, his own infringement on the seemingly peaceful land threatens to disturb more than just Kitty and Veronica’s love. In the form of this sophisticated and determined man Audrun finds a person who could dash all of her long-held hopes and take away from her forever her rightful home… Yet maybe she has also discovered a way out of her exile?
It was here that my own curiosity began to heighten as I saw for the first time the possibility of a connection between the different characters.
The novels pace never falters and Tremain keeps up the tense energy throughout, building to a dramatic climax.
She explores the ideas of whether money can really buy everything or if sometimes blood runs thicker. She questions the morals of her characters and tests our own assumptions about how far one person should go for personal gain no matter how passionately they feel. She’s also not afraid to stretch her characters limits and capacity for selfishness and greed to extremes that other writers may stray away from for fear of being too repellent.
How far will quite Kitty go to protect her love? How cruel and debase can Aramon be to gain personal redemption? And how strong is Audrun’s love of her land? And off course what was the thing that caused Melody to scream so loudly that warm summers day not long ago?
All of these idea’s are explored alongside the fierce bonds of family ties. But for me the masterpiece was Aramon and Audrun’s complicated past and the impact their own traumatic childhoods have had on their present lives.
This is my first book by Rose Tremain but certainly not the last, I’ve got my eyes peeled for more of her of books. Have you read this book or any others by Tremain? Are you a fan? Are there any other books by her that you would recommend?