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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Cultural Conflict In Southern France

Trespass - Rose Tremain

A story of cultural collision, Trespass details the events that surround the arrival of septuagenarian antiques dealer, Anthony Verey, in the Cevennes in southern France. Disappointed with his life in London, Anthony decides to buy a property in France and spend the last part of his life living somewhere beautiful.

Fate, in the form of a chain-smoking estate agent, takes Anthony to the Mas Lunel, the home of Aramon Lunel, a man sickening from the darkness of his own past as much as his unhealthy lifestyle. The promise of more money than he has ever imagined is enough to convince Aramon that he should sell his ancient farmhouse.

The fly in the ointment is Aramon’s half-sister, Audrun, who has suffered a lifetime of abuse. Exiled to an ugly modern bungalow on the edge of the land, she, nevertheless, remains firmly attached to her family home. Aramon assumes he can easily overcome her resistance to the sale but he has under-estimated the strength of her festering resentment.

There are no entirely likeable characters in this tale. Everyone is damaged by the past and everyone’s behaviour is warped by their struggle to cope with their troubled histories. Despite the lack of a sympathetic protagonist, however, I found this a compelling story. The way in which people live out their secret agendas, the consequences of the struggle to emerge from the shadow of the past and the conflicting demands of identity, success and happiness are all handled with forensic skill, making this an uncomfortably enjoyable story.