The opening chapter of Trespass ends with the piercing scream of a child, a sound that seems to transform into a plaintive wail, humming through the rest of the novel until its narrative climax is reached. Although the idyllic setting in the Cevennes region of France might suggest a tranquil story, Rose Tremain’s latest novel is anything but a simple countryside chronicle.
Trespass revolves around two pairs of brothers and sisters who could not be more dissimilar on the surface. Audrun and Aramon live within view of one another at their isolated family home, “Mas Lunel,” but their relationship is fraught with tension over old misdeeds that cannot be soon forgotten. In striking contrast stand Anthony and Vanessa, who live in separate countries, yet share a bond of sibling affection so strong, all other relationships pale in comparison. When Aramon decides—despite his sister’s protests—to put Mas Lunel up for sale, and Anthony considers moving to France in order to be closer to his sister after retiring from his antique furniture business, catastrophic events are set in motion. These four individuals will be irrevocably affected in ways none of them ever imagined, not even in their wildest dreams—or nightmares.
From its outset, Trespass is a novel infused with a quiet menace, just waiting to rear its angry head and devour the characters in its gaping jaws. Tremain thoughtfully explores the decrepitude of encroaching old age, heightened by descriptions of the once-majestic ancestral Mas that has now fallen into disrepair. Through it all, there is a very real, very sinister sense of time running out and the need for action, whether good or bad, before the option to respond to perceived injustices is gone altogether. The plot itself offers fewer surprises than one might hope, but the real meat of this novel is its characters, who will give readers plenty to sink their teeth into. Longlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, Trespass is a dark yet accessible addition to Tremain’s oeuvre.