Heave a big **sigh** of relief.
After a string of failures I was beginning to think I'd just have to bail out from the Bookerthon and declare this a gap year, but I do think this year's list might be suffering from my recollections of last year's stellar selection, coupled with my ongoing Big Sulk this year at the omission of Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor, and so it was never going to match up.
But for all Francophiles out there Trespass is the book for you.
Successful garden designer and writer Veronica Verey and her less successful artist partner Kitty Meadows are settled in the Cevennes, an area of southern central France that looks remarkably like Dartmoor with added trees, which is of course how Dartmoor used to look.
There presence here somehow seems fragile, their relationship unbalanced,
'They both knew that it was borrowed: the view of the hills; even the sunsets and the clarity of the stars. Somewhere, they knew it didn't belong to them. Because if you left your own country, if you left it late, and made your home in someone else's country, there was always a feeling that you were breaking an invisible law, always the irrational fear that, one day, some 'rightful owner' would arrive to take it all away...'
A challenging environment not only for gardeners but for the local population too faced with the temptation of moneyed Brits coming in and buying up their farmhouses to turn into second holiday homes.
This is the colour of money that has a £16,000 table in the downstairs lavatory
' ...decorated in apricot toile de jouy ...the brass-galleried top over a flower-painted frieze, the base with two snakewood inlaid doors and parcel gilt festoon apron.'
Unlike our £3 one... cheap B&Q kit affair bought in the Animal Sanctuary shop, poorly stained, draped in a piece of Liberty fabric (Ianthe) to give an air of exclusivity, laden with appropriate reading matter.
Cue Veronica's brother, internationally famous antique dealer Anthony...THE Anthony Verey who, with the sudden realisation that he is a spent force in the world of antiques, arrives at adoring sister Veronica's, and the considerably less impressed Kitty's home for the duration, as he searches for the property that will house his 'beloveds', not people as you might expect but his much-treasured possessions.
Amongst the properties Anthony considers is the Mas Lunel, an isolated farmhouse belonging to Aramon Lunel, a drunken n'er do well who has a significant past and a disturbed sister sitting it out in a shanty-built bungalow in the grounds. Audrun just biding her time for the right moment to serve that ice cold dish of revenge...and I had every sympathy with her cause.
The book has opened, and this is no spoiler, with little girl Melodie wandering off from a trip with some local school children and making a startling and scream-inducing discovery on the river bank.
So Rose Tremain has set up a glorious page-turner that constantly had me wondering just who was going to meet their maker, how and when and at the hands of who.
The book is rapidly and very successfully populated and located, and very clearly so too, leaving me in little doubt about character traits as the themes slowly emerged, obsession, guilt, abuse, jealousy, regret, collusion, and the torment is slowly eked out. The knife is twisted and much as Anthony finds a loose thread on his treasured Aubusson tapestry which you feel with one tug might unravel the whole lot, so the lives slowly and deliciously unravelled before my eyes.
Those I wanted to fall flat on their faces did, those I wanted to walk tall managed it but Rose Tremain also subverts expectations nicely too, I was particularly pleased to see the men rather than the women struggling with the embarrassment of stress incontinence, it's normally our province.
So just as the sale may be going through a gaping wide crack appears in the Mas Lunel's masonry, and how significant becomes the removal of the supporting wings of the house years previously that had buttressed it up, perhaps becoming a metaphor for the props in the lives of so many of Rose Tremain's characters, and thus do the cracks start to appear. No amount of deceitful filling in with mortar and painting over is going to cover up past sins or present dilemmas. The seepage in Trespass is inexorable and insidious and the significance of the title assumes multiple meanings as the book progresses.
Now is probably the right time to confess that I have not read anything by Rose Tremain through to the end before, I managed half of Colour and that's it, my loss and I will take Music and Silence off the shelf soon and give it my best attention.