Appetite, Desire and Belonging in the Novels of Rose Tremain

  • Sarah Sceats


Is Rose Tremain a feminist writer? In many ways her novels are reminiscent of mainstream nineteenth-century fiction: realist, with narrative drive and satisfying resolutions, handling major themes and moral issues, and emphasising the transformative power of love. Yet if these characteristics suggest a traditional oeuvre, it would be a mistake to conclude that Tremain’s fiction upholds the status quo. There is, to begin with, a concern with the position of women in society at various points in history. She explores the ways in which women are constrained, their opportunities for choice and action and how they oppose or accommodate themselves to constraints. Less obviously feminist is her use of oblique perspectives, points of view that are frankly marginal to the society depicted. These marginalised protagonists include, among others, an ageing homosexual butler, a dull-seeming housewife, a teenage boy in love with a woman of forty, a young female transsexual, an elderly forgotten novelist, a socially aspiring seventeenth-century physician, an English lutenist at the Danish Court, the wife of a gold prospector … Around such diverse figures are woven further perspectives that explore the difficult business of living in often less than ideal circumstances. Many of Tremain’s characters are unhappy; most are spurred by the sharp and unforgiving nature of appetite. If her fiction is feminist, it is certainly not so in any male-baiting, politically correct or instrumental way.


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For Further Reading

  1. For a hard copy list of Rose Tremain’s work up to 2001, see Contemporary Novelists, ed. David Madden et al., 7th edn (New York: St James Press, 2001). For a more up-to-date list on the internet, see the British Council website: <>.Google Scholar
  2. Bigsby, C. W. E., Rose Tremain, Contemporary Writers Series (London: British Council, 1992).Google Scholar
  3. Giddens, Anthony, Modernity and Self Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (Cambridge: Polity, 1991).Google Scholar
  4. Probyn, Elspeth, Outside Belongings (New York and London: Routledge, 1996).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Sarah Sceats 2005

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  • Sarah Sceats

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