This is my review of Trespass by Rose Tremain.
Tightly plotted and well-written as you would expect of the work of a prize-winning author, this is part thriller, part pyschological study of a disparate group of characters in late middle age. The short chapters, which switch between the viewpoints of the main characters seem to lend themselves to the film script which will no doubt follow in due course. The "trespass" can be taken on two levels, the most obvious being the encroachment of middle-class expats on the remote rural area of the Cevennes, drawn by its wild beauty and peace but oblivious to the feeligs of the displaced local people. On a subtler note, the "trespass" is also the unintentional harm caused by parents who ride roughshod over their children's needs, leaving their adult lives blighted – in this unremittingly sad book, this damage applies to all the characters.
At first I was irritated by the contrived opening chapter which seemed to be an exercise in creative writing (a child's eye view of the world – not very relevant to what follows) culminating in a horrific but unexplained incident, clearly intended to retain the reader through the following somewhat unexciting scene-setting chapters. The main characters seemed stereotyped: arrogant gay art dealer obsessed with his mother, horsy lesbian sister, dreamy sensitive French peasant given to epileptic fits and boorish,drunken brother, etc. Gradually, my interest was caught by the interplay between the characters, their different takes on the same situation, etc. All of them, even those who seemed wholly bad or unsympathetic at the outset, revealed redeeming features and some clear development in their outlook by the end of the book.
Although the language occasionally disappoints by touching on the cheesy, I was impressed by some imaginative phrases such as for two drinkers who "sat face to face across a choppy sea of glassware" and by insightful comments about, for instance, memory, growing old, being lonely, and all the characters' changing perception of events.
Although I guessed the climax of the story long before it came, there was a sadly ironic twist at the end. The most poignant aspect was the lack of communication between the ill-used Audrun and her brother Aramon, driven to drown his guilt in alcohol
I have enjoyed other books by Rose Tremain more – The Road Home, The Colour, Restoration etc – I think because they are all more original and probably more ambitious in their scope. They also, as I recall, have a single main character with whom one can more clearly identify. The quality of the writing saves "The Trespass" from being as depressing as it might sound and overall it is a successful example of what you might call accessible literary fiction.