Rose Tremain Biography
(1943– ), Sadler's Birthday, Letter to Sister Benedicta, The Cupboard, The Swimming Pool Season
British novelist and playwright, born in London, educated at the Sorbonne, and the University of East Anglia where she became a lecturer in creative writing. Her first novel, Sadler's Birthday (1977), looks back on the life of an ageing butler and dealt with themes of old age and death to which the writer was to return. Letter to Sister Benedicta (1979), in which a middle-aged woman writes a letter to the nun who brought her up at a convent in India, and The Cupboard (1982), which reflects on an ageing writer's past, both offered variations on this theme. The Swimming Pool Season (1985), which depicts the relationships between a number of expatriates in a remote village in the South of France, displayed her gift for ironic observation, also seen to advantage in her two collections of short stories, The Colonel's Daughter (1983) and The Garden of the Villa Mollini (1987). The novel Restoration (1989) marked a new departure in her fiction. Set at the time of Charles II's restoration to the throne, the novel is an ambitious work, exploring themes of exile and restoration on a number of different levels. The story is narrated by the hero, Robert Merivel, a fat, hedonistic student of anatomy and court favourite, now disgraced, whose attempt to regain royal favour and to find happiness are chronicled with a certain bawdy humour tinged with melancholy. Sacred Country (1992; James Tait Black Memorial Prize) was set in Norfolk during the 1950s and dealt with themes of sexual identity through the medium of its transsexual narrator. Evangelista's Fan (1994) was a collection of short stories with various settings, ranging from medieval France to contemporary America. The title story, about an eighteenth-century clockmaker who falls in love with an unknown woman and then convinces himself that his beloved (whose face he has only glimpsed) must be terribly disfigured, is characteristic of the collection, which displays the versatility of Tremain's writing and the diversity of her concerns.