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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 February 2010
A tale of siblings, territory and revenge set in the South of France, this is a dark tale and the reader is kept in suspense about the nature of the tragic events until late in the book. It's also about people's relationship to the land and outsiders trespassing on this and on each other's lives.

Set in the hills of Southern France, Trespass is a novel about sibling love and rivalry, disputed territory and ultimately revenge. In the French corner are Aramon Lunel, resident of the Mas Lunel, and his sister Audrun who lives in a cottage in the grounds. In the English corner are Veronica Verey, a garden designer, and her partner, an untalented watercolourist, Kitty. The catalyst that brings these together is the arrival in France of Anthony Verey, Veronica's brother whose exclusive antiques business in London is failing and who decides to follow his sister in finding a new life in France. Aramon is tempted to sell his family Mas by the lure of `foreign' money even if that means that his sister's house has to be destroyed to secure the deal.

Multi-award winning Rose Tremain is a fascinating novelist because each of her books is very different. If anything ties them together it is the approach of from unexpected angles and a focus on unglamorous outsiders. Trespass is no exception - it's full of outsiders and they are always not easy to love. In fact, apart from the poor little school girl, Mélodie, who is left screaming at a gruesome discovery at the end of the first chapter (which we don't find out about for another 200 pages), it's difficult to feel much empathy of affection for any of the cast of characters.

Of course in real life, the obvious course for an antiques dealer in need of cash would be to turn up on day time TV selling tat in various auction rooms. Thankfully, Tremain takes Anthony Verey to the Cévennes hills. Tremain is not the first to set a book in the South of France, using the beauty of the land and the mysterious impact of the Mistral wind to bring disaster.

At times, some of her characters veer dangerously towards cliché. Why, for example, does Anthony need to have a penchant for young boys for example? It adds nothing to the story. His character is much more subtly portrayed by his amusing habit of appraising the history of every piece of furniture he encounters.

The story has a palpable sense of darkness about it. You know something bad is going to happen from the first chapter, but it's not clear what this is going to be or even to whom it will occur. Once it is clear what has happened, the culprit is not that much of a surprise but again, it's not clear if he or she will get away with it.

The book has important things to say about the clash of cultures and the whole importance of our relationship to the land. It's the English who are trespassing on French land, but also people who are trespassing on each other's lives.

I have to say that it's not my favourite of Tremain's books, but she's such an exciting writer that it's still a very good read. It's perhaps more unsettling and darker than her other books, and it keeps you guessing about the directions it's going to take. And I am still wondering about how poor Mélodie coped with her shocking discovery.
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on 4 August 2010
Another long review here. Sorry, this becoming a bad habit of mine...

'Trespass' is set in the Cévennes, southern France. The novel consists of two narrative threads which meet, cross, double-cross and become increasingly inter-twined as the story progresses. Firstly we meet Anthony Verey, a one-time famous, English antique dealer; he is sixty-four, miserable and addicted to rent boys. Anthony's antique business has been on the verge of collapse since the onset of the current economic recession, and the novel opens with him leaving his lavish Chelsea home and travelling to France, to live with his sister while he searches for his ideal country mansion in which to live out his retirement.

The second story-arc concerns Audrun and Aramon Lunel; French siblings, also in their sixties. Audrun was raped throughout her life by her father and brother, but emerged from the experience an independent and opinionated - if a tad clichéd - `survivor'. Aramon, by comparison, has suffered a dramatic fall-from-grace since youth, and is now a violent alcoholic. The siblings are engaged in a life-long bitter rivalry over land, inheritance and the sale of the giant family home, the Mas Lunel. No prizes will be given for guessing how the lives of Anthony and the Lunel siblings collide...

So far, so promising. The three central characters couldn't be more contrasting, each with their own selfishly demanding goals. Supplicating the conflict between these three protagonists are their back-stories - three turbulent narratives of past tragedies which, unfortunately, aren't given the focus they deserve. This is where Trespass' most obvious failing lies: the past histories of its characters make for much, much more interesting stories than the one the novel is actually telling.

Audrun's past is one of paternal abuse, rape, retribution and redemption. Anthony's past is scarred with doomed relationships, hidden homosexuality and a tragically un-reciprocated devotion to his mother; almost an Electra complex. These are the stories I want to read, these are the narratives that should have made up the novel; instead, they are given merely incidental reference. The story of an old man trying to buy a mansion from some feuding siblings is, by comparison, just dull.

There's an unintended bathos that destabilises this novel: the past is an unstable fault-line threatening to bring the superficial top-layer of this story to ruins - what happens beneath the narrative is vastly more engaging than the actual `plot'. While I praise Tremain for being daring enough to write a novel with an exclusively post-retirement age cast, it seems to me that the real drama of the book lies in the protagonists' histories. I understand what Rose Tremain is trying to accomplish - a hidden history that jeopardises the present day is a standard trope of story-telling; in this case, however, the history is too interesting and the present (the bulk of the novel), is just a muted aftermath. Anthony echoes my sentiments with this charmingly articulated mid-novel protest:

"You have to let go of the past, darling." She said.
"Why?" he replied, "I like it there."

Similar to the narrative, the writing is also a two-sided coin; one which, unfortunately, is weighted in favour of the competent rather than the excellent. Most of the writing is merely adequate; it's not stylised, but it gets the job done. There are, however, moments of expressive brilliance that tease us with what Tremain is capable of:

"The world is so dull, thought Anthony. So cripplingly tedious. So full of all that you've met a thousand times before and which has never moved you and never will. Yet still it goes on..."

I also admire the fact that Tremain doesn't directly describe the more graphic and violent events: sex, rape and murder all occur, but they are "off-screen", as it were; not part of the mise-en-scene of the narrative. With so many modern writers devoting so many words to detailed descriptions of rape and murder, it's refreshing to find a writer like Tremain; one who recognises that long-winded and visceral descriptions rarely contribute to momentum or plot, and more-often-than-not stray dangerously close to unintentional farce and cliché. But, as I have said, Trespass' high-points of stylistic excellence are few and far; separated by wide canyons of the mundane.

And so it is with every aspect of this novel. The characters have great back-stories, but uninspiring present-day ambitions. The writing has moments of beautiful expression, but is too often leaden with the uninteresting. Even the novel's final moments - a shocking and imaginative revelation - is marred by the fact that I saw-it-coming a hundred pages in advance. 'Trespass' is almost a very good novel, but it's also close to being a very bad one. Every success is counter-pointed by a failure and the result is something that's just middle-of-the-road. This `almost' factor left me in an unusual emotional state: I felt a kind of frustrated indifference, torn between accepting the novel as it is, and longing for what it could have been.
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on 15 June 2011
'A life is a life,' says the protagonist towards the end of this book. You play the hand life deals you. Rose Tremain is one of the best English novelists writing today, and this is a wonderful book. She follows the lives of a French and an English family, neither of which is any great recommendation for family life, and brings them together with great accomplishment. I don't expect to read many better books than this one this year.
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on 30 March 2010
Rose Tremain is one of my favourite authors.Music and Silence,The Colour and The Road Home are magnificent books so I was looking forward to Trespass.Unfortunately I was left dissapointed. I found the characters totally unbelievable and cliched.I felt the book was quickly cobbled together,the ending predictable and nonsensical. How would a woman as old as Audrun manage what she did? What schoolteacher would allow a pupil to run off like that? The subsequent police investigation laughable. I know Tremain employs a magical realism in her work but this dosen't mix with the thriller genre that this book seemed to be aiming for.And the description of the the French Countryside made me feel that I would never want to live there. The only real part was the memories of the brother and sister although 'V' was not quite a believable child. I don't think any ten year old would be able to quote the full latin tag for a tree. And why did Anthony have to be homosexual as well as his sister? A rather naff approach there I'm afraid.
I award this three stars on the back of Tremains previous work but I do hope that any subsequent books will be a return to her usual 5 star standard.
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on 5 October 2011
I have been so disappointed with this, her 11th Novel. I can't help feeling that RT intended this book to be so much more than this when she sketched out her characters. Characters that could have been so well portrayed had their lives and pasts sidelined quickly for the rather boring subject of the search for Anthony,a very ugly,seedy character. This was then followed by the murder, which was too far fetched and unlikely.

I am sure that RT initially intended to portray something worthy. Maybe the nature of relationships between siblings, their experiences in childhood and how this shaped and affected their future but this was sadly lost in grisly murder and incest. Frankly I didn't care for the story line at all and certainly only finished the book as it was for our Book Club. I'll be interested to hear what the group have to say about it.
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on 7 April 2014
Rose Tremain has an uncanny knack for making characters, even those who should be unlikeable, utterly compelling. Her skill is in getting under the skin of these characters so they become real, their actions convincing, while their motives remain obscure until they reveal themselves in all their human folly.

This ability is evident in Trespass, in which a small but diverse group of characters cross paths, trespassing on the lives of the others. The ageing antiques dealer Anthony Verey, his garden designer sister Veronica, her lover Kitty, the intriguing Audrun Lunel, and her wretch of a brother Aramon, each reside in a world of their own making, replete with secrets and unfulfilled promise. At various times they come into contact with each other, always with devastating effect.

Tremain's skill will draw you into a world of beauty and filth, urging you on until the very last page, ever wondering what will happen next. Even when you think you know, she has the ability to surprise you.

An absolute must read for fans of Tremain's work, and highly recommended to anyone who enjoys peeling back the layers to see what lies beneath the skin, in the hearts and psyches of our fellow men and women.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 October 2012
This is a book which clearly divides - people seem to either love it or hate it. I read some of the 1 star reviews when I was a couple of chapters in and vaguely worried whether the book was going to turn out to be a disappointment. Thankfully, it didn't.

I've only read one Rose Tremain novel prior to this (Music and Silence) which I loved. Her writing is fluid, eloquent, poetic and, most of all, effortless. Some books you read for plot, others you're drawn into by the descriptions and writing style. This had both. The plot couldn't be described as pacy (nor is it a true thriller),which is what may have disappointed some readers. However, it is rich and compelling with a wonderful sense of pace. Again, the characters (which some readers have described as unlikable) are interesting. They're human - with all those human faults, failings and jealousies that most people display to a greater or lesser extent. Essentially, Trespass is about the relationships between people (and the damage they can do to each other - wittingly or unwittingly). It's about encroachment; both onto people's land/homes and into other, darker, territories - where the line between right and wrong is crossed with repercussions that can echo down the years.

I loved this book - even though the main characters were older (in their 60s) and outside my age group. It's always the mark of a great writer when they can hold a reader's interest, even though they are writing about people very dissimilar to the reader themselves. Anthony Very - the ageing antiques dealer who hopes to start a new life in the South of France - is arrogant, narcissistic and jealous of those who've achieved more. Yet there is a vulnerability to him which becomes apparent as the novel progresses. He is flawed - yet we begin to see that he has been injured too and, through the eyes of his sister (Veronica - or V as Anthony calls her), the reader comes to understand how certain sorrows can influence people throughout their lives. Then there's the relationship between Veronica and Kitty and the cracks which begin to appear once Anthony turns up as a house guest.

There are also two other siblings in the story - Audrun and Aramon Lunel, also in their sixties. Aramon is the resident of Mas Lunel - a huge (but decaying) stone farmhouse which Anthony sets his sights on buying. Audrun, Aramon's sister, lives in a small bungalow in the grounds and she carries with her the burden and resentment of a dark family secret. When Anthony enters their lives as a potential buyer for the Mas, he sets in motion a chain of events which will have devastating consequences for them all.

I don't wish to give anything away. Suffice it to say, I found this a deep and gripping read. It was thoughtful and poignant - and the characters, far from being shallow, were complex and troubled. Tremain paints a picture of the past and how it impacts on the present in a compelling and meaningful way. Superb.
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on 1 September 2011
This is the first book by Rose Tremain that I have read and it won't be my last.
Unlike some other reviewers, I was hooked from the beginning and couldn't leave the book alone until I had read it all.
The story gently built up, until it was inevitable that something untoward would happen. I must admit that during the last quarter of the book, I had an idea of what the outcome might be, but the writing was so compelling that I had to read on. I'm glad I did.
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on 2 July 2011
This book grabs you from the first page. This is a black tale of loathing and revenge between a brother and sister in south west France.Their lives are disrupted by an English antique dealer ,his sister and her hopeless artist partner.They all want to live in France buying local property with their middleclass money. Their English values and lifestyle intrude on the lives of local people driving a simple country woman to desperate measures which has devastating results for them all.Could not put it down.
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VINE VOICEon 5 January 2011
I picked up Trespass mainly, I'll be honest, because the cover caught my eye, and on reading the blurb I was sold. As a fan of France, I thought it'd be an interesting read. I wasn't wrong.

The book tells the tale of several characters, but their stories become more and more interwoven as time goes on. A beautiful old house is also a huge feature in the novel. The Mas Lunel is an old farmhouse, way out in the country in southern France. Aramon Lunel lives there in squalor, whilst his sister lives in a tiny bungalow on the land. There's certainly no love lost between these siblings because of their violent and disturbing past.

Things change for the siblings when Aramon decides to put the house up for sale. Audrun is horrified, knowing that rightfully that house is half hers but that if her brother sells it, she'll be left homeless and penniless. The potential buyer, Anthony Verey, is a man wanting to spend his last years in France. He visits the house and is almost decided upon buying it until he sees Audrun's house on the property - putting a real blip in the landscape, figuratively and literally.

However, this visit has already set wheels in motion which cannot easily be stopped and by the end of the book, several lives have been changed forever...

This was a brilliant read. At the beginning you would never guess what is going to come to pass. With every chapter, a little more information is given away, but it's done in such a way that you plough on through the book, desperate to know what happens next. The vital clues are drip-fed, but it's so skilfully done that it's unlikely you'll guess the ending - as I've done so many times in other books.

A really gripping read.
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