I think that sometimes when somebody succeeds at something there's one parent who's tried to do it, who's got so far with it and then had to give it up or perhaps wasn't that good at it," Tremain says. For much of her adult life the relationship troubled her, but around 10 years ago, when she met her current partner, the biographer Richard Holmes, she decided to let it go. It was horrible, and it troubled me that my own father could feel these things. There was nothing I could do about it, there was nothing I could change and I decided there was no point grieving.
You can make decisions to change your external landscape and I think you can make decisions to change your internal landscape as well. I'd said quite enough about it, it had plagued my life, so I decided not to concern myself anymore. She attended Francis Holland, a private girls' school, but when her mother remarried, to a cousin of her first husband called Ivo Thomson, who was joint owner of the Yorkshire Post, the family moved to Berkshire. Rose was sent to boarding school at Crofton Grange, Hertfordshire, and acquired a stepbrother, Mark, now an investment banker.
She says, "It had all the horrors of boarding school - it was very cold and the food was disgusting. But the good thing about being sent away to school is that there's a lot of what I would call dead time. You had to really use your own resources and what some of us did was to write our own plays and put them on. We starred in them, made the costumes, made the scenery, and it was thrilling. She began to write stories and to paint, like her sister Jo, who went on to work as an artist before she married and had six children.
She was beautiful in a rather decayed way and had never married and we made up stories about how she'd had this fiance who'd been killed in the war. She said to me one day 'I think the English room is looking a bit dull - what about doing some murals? She has retained an enthusiasm for France ever since, speaking the language, setting stories and novels there and earning a large French readership. In she spent several months in Paris with Holmes, a stay he has described as "an extended and secret honeymoon". On graduating, she read film scripts for a while, before taking a full-time position as a teacher at a boys' prep school in Hampstead.
Her first writing job was unglamorous: She later wrote a book about Stalin in the same series, published by Ballantine. In , afraid that her mother would disapprove, she secretly married Jon Tremain, her boyfriend from university. Their daughter, Eleanor, was born a year later. Jon had trained as a teacher before moving into IT, and they set up home in a dilapidated Suffolk farmhouse. East Anglia has remained her home ever since, and its flat, wide landscapes have become a distinctive feature of her fiction. But in , the year her first novel was published, the couple separated, and two years later Rose took the opportunity of a year's fellowship at Essex University to give up her part-time job as a picture researcher for British History Illustrated and commit herself to writing full-time.
Unusually for a young writer, her early novels were much concerned with older people. Letter to Sister Benedicta , which followed Sadler's Birthday, is told from the point of view of a disappointed middle-aged solicitor's wife, while The Cupboard recounts the life story of an year-old novelist who is close to death.
In her fiction Tremain approached her subjects from unexpected angles, concentrating her attention on unglamorous outsiders. Like Kazuo Ishiguro in The Remains of the Day, she chose the servant's perspective from which to write about the life of an English country house. But in , with Restoration, came a decisive break. Tremain remembers that it was taking her longer to get started on a new novel than previously. Nominated for the Booker prize, it brought Tremain more publicity and many new readers.
Not all the critics, though, were convinced. Reviewing Restoration in this newspaper, Christina Konig complained that she had been left "with the uncomfortable feeling that the whole thing has been an exercise in style, an excuse for fancy-dress histrionics".
Although Sacred Country and the Way I Found Her were both set in the 20th century, and dealt with such contemporary issues as transexuality, crime and divorce, Tremain's new novel, The Colour, looks like cementing her reputation as a costume dramatist: The setting of The Colour is New Zealand, during the s gold rush. Its principals are a recently married English couple whose early efforts at farming founder when the husband becomes intoxicated by his first sight of gold. Tremain says "I stumbled on the relics of the gold rush when in New Zealand in at the Wellington Festival; there's a little museum with the artefacts of the gold rush in Arrowtown - the tools, the hobnailed boots, the pans.
I was really moved by the idea that people set out to change their lives with these very basic tools. Tremain is aware that she may be accused of getting it wrong.
Because it's impossible from this distance in history to know everything, I don't think you should deny yourself the opportunity to imagine - the test is, does the reader of this book believe in these characters? What I strive for in my books is the landscape and the mental landscape that take the reader somewhere else. Music and Silence won the Whitbread Novel of the Year award and has sold more than , copies in paperback.
But it did not make the Booker shortlist, despite having been tipped as a possible winner. Writing in the Independent that year, Natasha Walter, one of the judges, damned with faint praise as "nice", "fine", "professional and entertaining" those women writers who have taken to setting their books in the past: I think what is interesting about her is that she manages to make good stories, ripping yarns in the case of The Colour, stories which in purely narrative terms wouldn't look out of place in the middle of the 19th century, but when we read them we realise that she's up to something more ingenious than that, more modern, self-reflexive and complicated.
She takes bold narrative ingredients and subtleises them. So we're having a good time in an old-fashioned sense but also being made to think about things. I think that's the secret of her popular success. Tremain has judged the Booker prize twice, in and , and makes no secret of the fact that she would love to win it. When Beryl Bainbridge's name is mentioned - shortlisted five times but never a winner - Tremain laughs. The complexity of America means that even so late in the day there are still sort of tracts of the American mind and the American landscape which feel unexplored.
Although in her fiction psychological and existential questions about, in King Christian's phrase, "how to be in the world" can appear more pressing, Tremain has strong views about changing social attitudes as well. She says she is interested in contentment, "the will to accept a small, monotonous life", versus materialism and competitiveness. After the [English] civil war and the interregnum which were years characterised by obedience to God, by everybody being in their place, there is this great explosion.
The Thames [which had frozen] explodes back into life, the theatres reopen, dress is absolutely transformed - that's what Restoration was about, though probably nobody realised. Her characters are hungry for power, money, sex, but susceptible too to love and loneliness: Many are preoccupied with the strange and the marvellous, and influenced by powerful dreams: Everyone is longing for something, and their fervent wishes propel the stories along.
Mary Ward yearns for her own transformation: In particular, becoming a boy would happen. I LOVE this book. Tremain is by far my favorite author and she writes beautifully. If you like finding literary treasures, dig this! Nov 04, Huw Rhys rated it it was ok. Oh what do we do with Rose Tremain? She either writes absolute corkers - Restoration, The Colour, The Road Home - or she misses the mark by a country mile - and yet the makings of a great book are hidden in there somewhere.
Her better books are her later books, which is encouraging - and also those books that tend to concentrate on the story, or the journey, of one person, as opposed to an ensemble cast which takes a while to come together. This falls very much into the latter camp. The first hal Oh what do we do with Rose Tremain? The first half or more of the book stumbles around like a poor man's soap opera, introducing more and more characters, many of whom even by the end of the book you are still not only wondering who they were, but what actually they were doing there at all.
But, like all her books, it is dotted with little slivers of gold, small comments on the state of mankind that make you realize that the almost painful at times non events that make up the book are a bit more than a superficial soap opera. Why do people read books? To be educated about life? To find enlightenment on something or another? This book manages to do all three - but in far too small doses, and it takes far too long to achieve it. You stick with Rose Tremain books until the end though, because you know they'll get better eventually.
However, you also know that this one, like too many other of her books, will become completely unmemorable in a few weeks time. So frustrating - but I still have another two or three of hers to read - and I'll read them all! Rose Tremain writes a story about our yearning for love and passion and all her characters are ready to drop everything in their pursuit of the unattainable.
The Swimming Pool Season by Rose Tremain. From the author of The Gustav Sonata After the collapse of 'Aquazure', his swimming poo. The Swimming Pool Season has ratings and 24 reviews. Shereese said: I not only own a first edition of this book, I actually have the original review.
But love proves elusive. She takes a full cast of characters, mostly middle aged, from two distinct walks of life, Oxford academia and rural French village, and all share a yearning for love. Marriages and relationships are examined and if not moribund most are certainly devoid of passion. Each character has fantasies and, some, wild desires Rose Tremain writes a story about our yearning for love and passion and all her characters are ready to drop everything in their pursuit of the unattainable.
Each character has fantasies and, some, wild desires, showing they haven't given up on again enjoying those first exciting tender expressions of love, and each achieves a varying degree of intimacy. Marriages might be grown stale, protagonists seem weary of life but fanciful thoughts still surface fuelling sensual longings and carnal desires, and soon each character seems hell bent on some reckless activity and daring choice that can only lead to chaos in their well ordered lives.
From the wide eyed innocence of Agnes to the disillusioned experience of Larry and Miriam, each character reveals their own dissatisfaction with their present day lives reflecting upon opportunities missed, or choices made with misgivings and regretted later, or simply unrequited loves. Lives lived without passion or meaning, but with bitter acceptance. Torment and disappointment fuel whimsical day dreaming and memories surface of desires unfulfilled.
Agnes befriends Larry, an Englishman abroad, and failed business man in a stale marriage to Miriam who is conveniently summoned home to Oxford as her mother is dying. Agnes sees an opportunity and views Larry both as a surrogate father and an experienced lover. Her virginal state sets the cat amongst the pigeons and first, Larry imagines their unsatisfactory first sexual experience as Agnes surrenders her virginity to an unpractised lover; and then Xavier is seduced as Agnes wants a wild fling somehow knowing her marriage will in all probability lack the passion she desires.
The elderly Mallelou, grumpy and brutish, used to work as a signalman on the railways but progress overtook him making him redundant, and now he lazes away his days on a small farm holding leaving his long suffering wife, Gervais, to do the heavy duty work. Gervais is celebrating her 49th birthday, and finds plenty of time to reflect upon their moribund marriage now devoid of any intimacy. Gervaise is in the milking shed and besides her cattle she is ''a little stick of a person beside them, so meagrely fleshed, her breasts lie flat on her ribs like soft purses.
Come in her arse. One by one all the relationships are examined and found wanting and there is a sense of dysfunction spreading thorough the sleepy little village of Pomerac.
Xavier 2 The starting point of The Swimming Pool Season is the mid-life crisis of a couple of British lifestyle migrants who settle in the Dordogne region after Larry has lost his swimming pool business. The stories she wrote in her 20s were rejected by the literary magazines she sent them to, and her first novel, Sadler's Birthday , which describes the reminiscences of a retired butler, had done the rounds as well by the time it landed on the desk of a young editor at Macdonald and Jane's. If her writing may be described as feminist it is not because she focuses on women. He first starts building the pool for Miriam. Rose was sent to boarding school at Crofton Grange, Hertfordshire, and acquired a stepbrother, Mark, now an investment banker.
It is apparent that each character is unfulfilled in some way and is looking for more from life than their current relationship affords. The village is a seething vortex of affections and jealousies, and longings and unrequited loves, and carnal desires that are, only with great difficulty, suppressed. Sep 05, Diana rated it really liked it. This is the best novel I've read in a long time. Interesting details of small-town, pastoral life with complications of love and the intrusions of urban life and distance.
I can't wait to pick up another novel by this prolific writer, whose excellent story "My Wife is a White Russian" I read in a recent story collectionl. Jan 28, Alison Hampton rated it it was ok. This was slightly disappointing. Even after finishing it I was not quite Sir what it was supposed to be about, France, swimming pools, love, art? There was a hint of a good story but it never quite made it. Jan 28, Helen rated it liked it. I particularly loved the French characters in this book. I like to believe they exist. Dec 21, Sue rated it really liked it.
As always, Rose Tremain's characters have a way of sneaking up on you as you read. The gentle meandering through intersecting lives overshadows the slow moving story because, really, it's ofetn not the story that makes Tremain's writing addictive, but the depth and complexity of her characters. However, the book written in did have a "dated" feel to it and at times the darker hopelessness of ordinary lives made the book far too melancholy.
The ending, too, was a bit unsatisfactory. Sep 16, Karen rated it liked it. Sometimes I feel compelled to point out that I rate books strictly on my own enjoyment of them. Objectively this should get 4 or 5 stars but based on my taste, and maybe even external circumstances, I give it three. This was a bit of a slog. The characters were complex and multi-faceted so I never had a person I was rooting for or identified with. The writing was very good and the story believable. Nov 16, Gina Oliver rated it really liked it. Rose Tremain is one of my favorite authors, so whenever I find a book of hers I've never read I feel like Fortune has smiled on me.
I always find her writing to be literary and wonderfully developed, and The Swimming Pool Season was no exception. One of my favorite things about her writing is her character development, and this book's characters are sure to make you look forward to your next encounter with each one of them. Each one's distinctive humanity is so engaging that you easily forgive Rose Tremain is one of my favorite authors, so whenever I find a book of hers I've never read I feel like Fortune has smiled on me.
Each one's distinctive humanity is so engaging that you easily forgive them their numerous flaws most of them, anyway. The settings in the book were charming, the story intriguing, and the multinational context added a depth that helped propel the story along. One of Tremain's great gifts as a writer is her ability to quietly assign significance to ordinary things. In this book, the colors of objects doors, handkerchiefs, candles, skin, etc. Probably her most notable effort at this was in The Colour, in my opinion her best work ever. Like every one of her books, The Swimming Pool Season is completely different than anything else Tremain has written.
Its plot is complex, but easy to follow. The story is of love, betrayal, and the redemption of each character, each in his or her own way. The Swimming Pool Season is set in England and in France, and the title refers to one character's wish to redeem himself and his past failures by starting a swimming pool business in rural France.
It sounds ridiculous, but by the end you completely understand the importance and controversy the idea generates for each of the characters. Initially, it sounded to me like a weak idea for a book, but but ultimately it was another masterful accomplishment by this great author. Apr 11, Joe Stamber rated it liked it Shelves: The Swimming Pool Season is one of Tremain's early novels but despite that it definitely has the style that I have come to recognise after reading several other of her books.
It's difficult to imagine anyone who has a love of reading the written word not being entranced by Tremain's eloquent prose. What carries The Swimming Pool Season is the characters, which is a good job as there isn't much of a plot.