Review: Rose Tremain's Trepass

Tremain's recently published Trespass (2010) unfolds along a simple plot arc: a retired antiques dealer wants to buy a villa in the Cevannes region of France, but he encounters difficulty when it becomes clear that the owner cannot sell. Trepass contemplates the various ways people can trespass: over themselves, natural boundaries, relationships, memories, and sexuality. The novel also investigates the impact of childhood, a period of time from which, the novel suggests, one must spend the rest of life recovering.

Though the plot is simple, the characters and language are not. Tremain assembles a cast of old, life-weary people, all yearning to capture an ineffable, unreachable desire. They all dwell in the past, haunted by the notion that whatever good they could hope for has already escaped them. As the novel unfolds, it becomes clear that these desires are as disappointing as their current situations, prompting the pessimistic view that life is merely a shadowbox of hopes for better things. As Tremain investigates her characters, unfolding detail by delicate detail, we find shattered, sympathetic people, aching for peace.

The intensity of the novel is acheived through nuanced language and precise details. Tremain is a master at creating simple language that supports a tremendous weight. The pace is slow and you find yourself digesting every word. This is not a fast read, but a thoughtful walk through a shadowed room, a place full of regret, old age, lost time, and most of all, bitter trespasses.


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