Two very different sets of siblings, one French, one English, seek resolution to their fraught upbringings and present discontent in this latest tale of intertwining lives from Tremain (The Road Home, 2008, etc.).
When his success as a London antiques dealer wanes, Anthony Verey, solitary but for his sexual proclivity for young men, travels to southern France where his sister, Veronica, lives and gardens with her partner and lover, Kitty, while writing a book titled Gardening without Rain that Kitty, a mediocre watercolorist, intends to illustrate. Anthony decides, much to the dismay of his sister’s lover, to purchase property nearby. His interest falls on the Lunel family homestead, where the Lunel siblings live locked in antipathy—the alcoholic Aramon in the filth and decay of the family’s once fine home, and his sister, Audrun, relegated to a squalid cottage beside the wood that is her meager birthright. Aramon plans to sell the house to a rich foreigner, and Audrun, tired of cleaning up his messes, loathes him for his mistreating his land, property and animals, but most of all for plotting to convert their home into cash. The proximity of Audrun’s cottage to the Mas Lunel is an obstacle to its sale and so he contests their property boundaries. Audrun wishes Aramon dead; Kitty has similar hopes for Anthony, who has proven himself an apple of discord thrown into their paradisiacal existence. As the dry mistral desiccates the landscape, tensions strain until, quite suddenly, Anthony disappears. Tremain sensually, intricately depicts the landscape, gardens and woods of southern France. The author’s latest is worth reading for its flights of interior narration and iridescent, vivid descriptions. There’s a solid story to boot.
A well-executed, intense tale of dark family secrets coming to light in a sunny place.