The American Lover by Rose Tremain

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The American Lover by Rose Tremain

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Category: Short Stories
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Kate Jones
Reviewed by Kate Jones
Summary: An absorbing, cleverly crafted and diverse collection of short stories.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: October 2015
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0099548447

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Having never read a Rose Tremain book before, I was interested to start this collection of short stories. I wasn't disappointed, and it quickly became clear why she has won so many literary awards for her work.

I have to say, I didn't find the opening title story, The American Lover, as fulfilling as the ones later in the collection. Although well-written, about a young woman's transgressive affair with a much older man in Paris in her youth, I found it ultimately unfulfilling and found it difficult to empathise with the protagonist, Beth.

The stories, however, picked up pace and evolved from there for me. Her writing has great observational description, such as the description of the farm in Captive, one of the shorter stories in the collection, which I felt ended just as it was beginning. She uses different literary devices and techniques in her stories; in this particular one, though short, she switches from past to present tense half way through. In another story, 21st Century Juliet, a modern-day take on the Shakespeare tragedy, she writes in diary form, reminiscent of Bridget Jones. The stories are also diverse in setting – both time and place. Lucy and Gaston, for example, jumps effortlessly in both time and place, between France and Kent in 1944 and 1976, which somehow works; an amazing feat for a short story.

Extra Geography felt similar to Muriel Spark's Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, when two schoolgirls fall in love with their female geography teacher, and this story felt like it could be the opening to a novel. There are touches of brilliance in such stories as A View of Lake Superior in the Fall, in which a 70-year old couple run away from their flaky grown-up daughter. Then came The Housekeeper – as fine a piece of writing as you would want in a short story. It is based on the character of Mrs Danvers in Daphne Du Maurier's classic Rebecca, and Tremain uses Du Maurier as a character in the story. This, for me, was the finest story in the collection, though I enjoyed the majority of the others.

There are small snapshot style stories here, and longer ones to get absorbed in, making it ideal for whichever reading mood you are in. It would be a good accompaniment on a holiday, for example. Each story and set of characters are completely different to the next and all the characters live and breathe on the pages. Poignant, fresh, and with humour, this is a collection I would heartily recommend and which I would return to again and again. I fully intend to seek out more of Tremain's books.

If you enjoyed this, you might like: The Road Home, also by Rose Tremain

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Buy The American Lover by Rose Tremain at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The American Lover by Rose Tremain at


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