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The Cupboard Paperback – 2 Sep 1999
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"This is a writer whose breadth of imagination and supple prose transcend the genre: she is one of the finest writers in English" (Daily Telegraph)
"ROSE TREMAIN'S FICTION IS MY GOLD STANDARD" (Charlotte Mendelson Independent on Sunday)
"Much of the power of the book springs from Erica herself, a magnificent and greatly sympathetic creation... Miss Tremain has fashioned the totality of one life - and conveyed the evanescence of all human existence" (Sunday Telegraph)
"Strongly constructed - highly relevant - thoroughly fascinating" (Sunday Times)
"Rose Tremain has managed to get into the skin of her clever and wilful old heroine" (Nina Bawden Daily Telegraph)
'Deeply evocative - a book brimming with life' The TimesSee all Product description
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As with all of Rose Tremain's novels, this is a beautifully written and imaginatively created story and the main protagonist, Erica March, is an interesting and sympathetic character, about whose life I enjoyed reading. However, as the reader learns about Erica's life in a rather piecemeal fashion as she dips in and out of her memories, I felt that I didn't really become as well-acquainted with her as I would have liked and, as a supporting character, Ralph didn't really come to life, and I found it difficult to become involved in the parts of the story that focused on him. Also, I would have liked to have learnt more about some of the interesting people that Erica met whilst living in Paris. All of that said however, although I did not enjoy this novel quite as much as I have some of Rose Tremain's other excellent novels (such as: Restoration;Merivel;The Way I Found Her; and The Swimming Pool Season) 'The Cupboard' was still an entertaining and interesting read, and as it is yet another of the many books I have had languishing on my bookcases and somehow never got around to reading, I am really glad that I have finally taken the time out to read it.
I read it immediately after the Gustav Sonata - a wonderful novel - what was probably not a good idea, in hindsight, but there it is.
My problem with this book was the mixing of Ralph's rather uninteresting life with Erica's literary and personal lives, the dialogue between them and the extracts from Erica's novels which were to say the least totally weird and beggared my comprehension. For those with a much higher brow than mine this may be a masterpiece, but for me it is a great disappointment. Sorry Rose Tremain.
Her central character, whose life and writing we explore through conversations with an male American journalist, is a very elderly English woman, who has lived through most of the 20th century. Erica is a wonderful, fierce, tender, fragile, passionate and engaged woman. She has breathed in, engaged with, inspired, and been inspired by life. She, as Ralph, the journalist, discovers, lives with and through love - not only sexual love, but an ability to live from the heart and to really live a life in the moment. This means her life is large, joyous, terrifying, fraught with periods of madness, despair, doubt, pleasure etc etc.
Inevitably, in describing such a character, there is the danger for the writer, either of overblown and fulsome prose, or of failing to fully describe, becuase of a fear of being overblown. Tremain avoids these pitfalls - Erica is seen through the distancing device of the youngish, male American - and it is through his perpective on her and her writing, that we discover her. It is also through her effect on him which causes him to look at his own more narrow, mundane and disengaged life, that Tremain makes us look at our own lives - do we live 'Ralph' or do we live 'Erica'.
Not only does Tremain 'tell stories' and explore characters beautifully - she is also a fine, fine, poetic writer - without ever ramming the beauty of her writing down your throat - there is no self-indulgence in her writing, just every now and again, a phrase or an image will stop you in your tracks and remind you how crafted her writing style, her choice of words, her structure is.
She is at the same time an 'easy' read - and a read of depth.
I've never read a book of hers which has not delighted me - they are all VERY different in subject matter - she is a writer with many, many books inside her, not one book endlessly re-presented.
Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous.
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