Books: Trespass by Rose Tremain

by anneMoore on December 3, 2010

Why do we give authors second chances? Once burned, why invest again?

Because books, and their creators, are like lovers: we may have parted but we want to recall the initial attraction.

Rose Tremain’s “The Road Home” disappointed. It was so predictable: an immigrant comes to London, sleeps in a corner, lucks into better and better jobs, falls in love, and goes home. Tremain writes beautifully, and the characters were likable. But the whole story was linear, and plodding.

Tremain’s newest novel surprises. “Trespass” begins with a frustrated school girl, unhappily relocated from Paris to a village in the Cevennes, in rural France. The girl wanders away during a group picnic and discovers something that shouldn’t be in the stream.

This isn’t a thriller, but the story kept me in its grip. At stake: an old French estate, the Mas Lunel. Its owner, Aramon Lunel, is an alcoholic mess. He can’t keep himself or the grounds or his hunting dogs clean. He decides to sell. But everyone who comes to look at the estate has one complaint: there’s an ugly bungalow at the edge of the property. Whose is it? Can it be removed?

Audrun Lunel owns the bungalow and its land, split from the estate when their father died. Audrun had a happy life while their mother was alive, but when she died, Audrun was a young teen. She was taken from school and made to work in an underwear factory. Far worse, her father and Aramon sexually abused her.

Forever dirtied by them, Audrun spurns the one good man who would love her.

Enter Anthony Verey, an English antiques dealer who wants to leave his life in London behind. House hunting, he falls in love with Mas Lunel; he must buy it. But there’s that unsightly bungalow.

When Verey returns for a second look, he disappears.

Coming off a bender, Aramon finds the Englishman’s car in the barn and two empty cartridges in his hunting rifle. Quite literally, Aramon becomes sick with worry. Did he kill the man? Where are the car keys? Why are there spent cartridges in his gun, when he always empties it?

There is no happy end to this story. Its last pages shock and sadden.

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