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Sacred Country by Rose Tremain
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Sacred Country

by Rose Tremain

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Normally books about people trying to "find themselves" do not appeal to me. I'm a reader of historical fiction - thus I discovered Rose Tremain through Music & Silence (Excellent) and Restoration (wonderful read). I purchased this book simply because of the author. When I got it and read the covers, I thought "I've been gipped, this isn't what I wanted" - However, after just a few pages, I was pulled in. Mary/Martin's struggle with gender reflects every individual's struggle to become who they think they are meant to be. Gender identity is only a tool here; it is not the focus of the book. The English farm, the repressed family, the country music scene in Nashville are a perfect backdrop for the inner struggles of characters such as Mary and Walter. The author paints such a realistic picture: Struggles are hard and probably never ending. The book also demonstrates the importance of the "one person" in someone's life who can make such a difference -- in small and often unknowing ways. I can't say I loved this book, but I can say that I am so glad I read it. The world is filled with Marys and Walters, and there is a bit of them in each of us as well. The perspective this book brings is right on target. Rose Tremain is truly a great writer. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 16, 2013 |
Gorgeous prose, affecting story. Everyone talks the same, and the ending is kind of tidy, but I was fascinated and enjoyed pretty much every scene; the claustrophobia of post-WWII Britain is conveyed very well. ( )
  cricketbats | Mar 30, 2013 |
Having now read three or four of Rose Tremain's books I find them all very different in terms of plot, setting and characters. And all almost unbelievably well written. Her characters are so wonderfully constructed, and she also has so much compassion for each of them, irrespective of who they are or what the story is about.

There are a whole bunch of quirky and fallible characters presented to us here, mostly from the small Suffolk farming village of Swaithey. Chapters reflect the passing years, ranging from 1952 when Mary was six, up to 1980: although there are often gaps of two or three years between them. The events encompassed within this passage of time are told in some sections from the point of Mary and also her mother, Estelle, with the bulk of the book being in the third person. It could be jarring, but it isn't. It follows Mary through her awakening and growing awareness of the fact that she really is a boy, her subsequent difficulties and her slow transformation into Martin. But it is not all about Mary and Martin. The other characters are so richly drawn, and they too have their stories to tell.

For much of it, Sacred Country is a profoundly sad read. Sad, but not depressing, even though depression is certainly present throughout the book. There are moments of light, of hope, of humour, and even of happiness. As Martin says to Jeremiah out in the fields towards the end of the book: "Age isn't the only thing to creep up on us. Sometimes it's happiness."

Sacred Country is a book that will make you think . . . and also hopefully one to make you pull yourself out of that rut you've dug yourself into. ( )
2 vote crimson-tide | Aug 3, 2009 |
This was my introduction to Rose Tremain, and she captures in "The Sacred Country" a full and unorthodox dream. This dream features people ill-suited to their bodies, people ill-suited to nurturing their families, people ill-suited to the dreams of others. Talk about unorthodox - consider a transgender woman-turned-man leaving London for Tennessee, and her brother pursuing a country singing career in Nashville. These principal characters yearn for the grand Someplace Else, and finally do find it.

This doesn't measure up the Tremain's brilliant, transcendent "The Colour," but it's well worth your time in its own right.

http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2010/06/sacred-country-by-rose-tremain.html ( )
1 vote LukeS | Mar 18, 2009 |
I wasn't completely taken by this one and felt the need to race through to the end so that I could get away from the annoying characters. ( )
  Clurb | Jun 27, 2007 |
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Epigraph
I live without inhabiting
Myself -- in such a wise that I
Am dying that I do not die
-- St John of the Cross
'Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not "seems".'
-- 'Hamlet' Act I, Scene ii
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Fallsthe Shadow
-- 'The Hollow Men'
T. S. ELIOT
Dedication
To the memory
of Bernie Schweid
First words
On February 15th 1952 at two o'clock in the afternoon, the nation fell silent for two minutes in honour of the dead King.
Quotations
And out in the fields I say to Jeremiah: "Age isn't the only thing to creep up on us. Sometimes it's happiness."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0671886096, Paperback)

At the age of 6, while standing in a field observing a minute's silence for the death of King George IV, Mary Ward realized she was not a little girl. "That was a mistake," she said to herself. "She was a boy." Where this realization takes Mary is the ostensible subject of Sacred Country, although British writer Rose Tremain (author of The Way I Found Her) so lovingly treats the bleak town of Swaithey, England, where Mary grows up, and the people around her that the novel eddies out to encompass the town and times. With a steady eye, Tremain describes the harsh circumstances of Mary's early life and her disconnection from her body and surroundings. That she can find so much humor and magic in Mary's slow transformation into Martin is remarkable, but the book may be most memorable for its quiet realism and light, exacting prose. Not to be missed. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

On the day of the funeral of King George VI in 1952, Mar y Ward has a revelation. She realises she is some one else and in time she will grow up to be a boy.

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