Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Tremain's baker's dozen stories are beautiful depictions of the messy interiors of human emotions. In her title story, a once-popular author, now crippled after a devastating accident, reflects on the obsessive love affair that both made and destroyed her. In "The Jester of Astapovo," a depressed 1910 Russian stationmaster stuck in a shriveled marriage while pining for an unattainable "other" is caught up in the drama of hiding a desperately ill Leo Tolstoy from his madly controlling wife. "The Housekeeper" moves forward 26 years, presenting the story behind the story of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. The narrator, Mrs. Danowski, is asked by her employer, Lord de Whithers of Manderville Hall, to give visiting guest du Maurier a tour of the estate. A stop at the summerhouse on the grounds triggers an explosive, albeit secretive affair between the women that ultimately leads to shocking literary betrayal. VERDICT Award-winning novelist Tremain (The Road Home) has written an exquisite collection of stories that span decades, continents, and the thin line between reality and imagination, with each piece fleshing out conflicts of the heart with masterly strokes.[See Prepub Alert, 8/22/14.]-Beth Andersen, formerly with Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
In the title story, which kicks off this collection from Tremain (Man Booker Prize shortlisted for Restoration), Beth, a British author nearing 30, has recently been in a car accident that broke both her legs. Recuperating at her parents' apartment, Beth takes to waiting for Rosalita, the housekeeper, who comes by every afternoon and listens to the story of Beth's life, while dusting and sharing some stories of her own. In Paris at age 19, Beth was seduced by an older, aloof American who left her bereft after his sudden departure. Beth then depicted their relationship in what became a global sensation of a novel, which made her rich but no less forlorn. "The Housekeeper" features a former servant in a grand English estate recounting the betrayal of a lover. In "Extra Geography," two high school girls, both field hockey players, set their sights on a young female teacher. The breadth of subjects and settings is matched by Tremain's exquisite prose. Readers might just want to take a break between stories, to savor the language and the images. (Feb.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* In this season of outstanding story collections (e.g., Tremain's fellow British writer Hilary Mantel's very recent The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher), this one occupies space in the top drawer. Tremain is the author of, among many outstanding novels, the Man Booker Prize shortlisted Restoration (1989), about the restored English monarchy under Charles II after the Puritan interregnum (the novel was made into a very successful movie with Robert Downey Jr.). It is always exciting to see fiction writers as well versed in the short form as in the long, and Tremain's adeptness at not only drawing in page-length but also, and more important, reducing theme and plot to a smaller scale while simultaneously creating a compelling narrative tension is to be admired. The title story is an extremely well-expressed, profoundly felt look at a done-with affair that spurred the woman to write a novel that becomes famous but the draw of the story is that the usual affair tropes are given fresh life. The most rewarding story is The Housekeeper, breathtaking in its ingenuity as Tremain imagines the real housekeeper behind Daphne Du Maurier's character Mrs. Danvers, in Rebecca. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The popularity of Tremain's novels will send readers to her short fiction.--Hooper, Brad Copyright 2014 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Loneliness and lust eddy through the pages of a dexterous collection of short stories by Tremain (Merivel, 2013, etc.). It opens with the title story, in which a British teenager, Beth, is seduced by an American photographer named Thaddeus, a man her father's age, in 1960s London. He takes her to Paris, where they stay in a skimpily furnished apartment overlooking Montparnasse Cemetery and go to bed with a woman named Fred. Back in London, Thaddeus vanishes just as Beth realizes she's pregnant. After an abortion, she turns their affair into a roman clef that brings fame and fortune but no closure. The written word proves altogether more potent in "The Housekeeper," which imagines a passionate relationship between "Miss du Maurier" and one Mrs. Danowski, the fictitious inspiration for Rebecca's Mrs. Danvers. Years later, living slenderly in a room by the sea, Danowski reflects on how she's been shaped by du Maurier's decision to make a villain out of her: "I think I am probably frightening to look at, ugly in fact, as ugly as she made me in the book." Lost love of all varieties drives other stories, too. Debt forces a man to sell the apple orchards he grew up among; a war widow is forced to part with her only child when her in-laws pay for a posh boarding school; an adolescent girl observes her friend stride on ahead toward adulthood without her. Throughout, melancholy is offset by Tremain's worldliness, her quick wit and the sheer joy that's to be had from characterization as deft as this: "She was a stumpy little person, optimistically named Patience." Wholly enthralling, these stories gleam with human desire and malice and hope as they move between Tolstoy's Russia, World War II France and present-day London. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.