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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 10 March 2015
Eighty-seven-year-old Erica March, once a well-regarded writer of unusual, allegorical novels, is nearing the end of her long and full life. Not wanting death to take her unawares, Erica decides exactly how she wants her life to end, and before it does, she agrees to be interviewed by Ralph Pears, a thirty-five-year-old American journalist, who has arrived in London keen to begin recording the story of her life. As Ralph spends time with Erica in her comfortable sitting room, lit by her prized Tiffany lamp, we learn of her childhood years which she spent in Suffolk with Gully, a foundling boy informally adopted by her father; of Erica's mother's death from being crushed by a bull; of Erica's imaginary friend, Claustrophobia, whose 'presence' helped Erica to cope with the death of her mother; and of Erica's Uncle Chadwick, a Wildean-type playwright with his flowing locks, his silk dressing gowns and his penchant for unreliable young men. In addition we learn about the time Erica spent living in London with Chadwick when she was a young adult, of her friendship with suffragette Emily Davison and of her involvement with the women's suffrage movement; we also learn of Erica's love affairs and of her deep and lasting love for a French man, Gerard, with whom she lived for years in Paris and "lay curled up in Gerard's life like a piece of sand inside a mollusc." Of course there is a lot more to Erica's long life than I have revealed here, but I shall leave the remainder for potential readers of this novel to discover for themselves.

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.

3.5 Stars.
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on 5 September 2017
I am quite at home with complex structures in novels (loved Catch-22 and am a huge Ali Smith fan - by way of example) but this one I found confusing and highly unsatisfactory. I've read most of Rose Tremain's work and have enjoyed every novel and short story but this one left me cold. Well written, as one might expect, but, when you get a third of the way through a novel and you don't care if every character dies in a train crash, it hasn't worked for you.

I read it immediately after the Gustav Sonata - a wonderful novel - what was probably not a good idea, in hindsight, but there it is.
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on 10 November 2017
Later works are better.
I do report content errors as I come across them but have no idea if they are acted upon.
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on 10 March 2014
What a surreal novel, but utterly charming. With the quality of this writing I was carried into the eras the novel is set in.
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on 4 July 2017
Boring, boring, boring. What a difference to The Road Home and Trespass which I loved.
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on 31 March 2017
A very enjoyable read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 2 October 2012
It pains me to say that I did not enjoy this work . It pains me as up until now I delighted in anything written by Rose Tremain [ See my reviews on The Swimming Pool Season, Sacred Country etc. etc.]. Because it was written by Ms. Tremain I persevered page after heavy going page to an unsatisfactory end. The premise is good: young American journalist, Ralph in the present time interviews over many meetings the ageng Erica March an important literary figure from the early to mid parts of last century. During the course of their meetings her unusual life unfolds against the background of world events.
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.
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on 19 February 2004
Like a mountain goat, Tremain amazes by her agility and sure footedness, negotiating high peaks, impervious to the sheer and deadly drops beneath! In this book, the 'drops' or 'traps' which a lesser writer would have fallen into, she effortlessly avoids.
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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on 16 July 2014
I enjoy all of her works
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on 17 September 2014
entirely satisfied thankyou
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