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Trespass (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – September 23, 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This thought-provoking novel by Orange Prize–winning Martin (for Property) opens deceptively, as the quiet story of a mother slowly adjusting to her 21-year-old son becoming an adult. In 2002, Chloe Dane is a loving mother and wife, an artist engrossed in illustrating a new edition of Wuthering Heights and a protestor against the imminent invasion of Iraq. Her husband, Brendan, is a historian who doubts that his work has any value but is generally self-satisfied. When their only child, Toby, a junior at NYU, gets Salome Drago, his Croatian immigrant girlfriend, pregnant and hastily marries her, Chloe fears he was trapped by a calculating woman more interested in Toby's family's impressive house and property than in Toby. When Salome learns her mother, Jelena, whom she believed was killed by Serbs, is alive, she traces her to Trieste and abruptly departs to find her. Toby follows, and when the newlyweds decide to drop out of college and remain in Italy, Chloe sends Brendan to bring Toby home. A tragedy—one very convenient for the narrative—strikes while Brendan's in Italy, paving the way for a startlingly light resolution. Forgiveness doesn't come easy for the characters as they learn that nothing—not family, borders or survival—is inviolable. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics hail Trespass as a "stunning" work (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), with the potential to introduce Valerie Martin (best known for her 2001 novel Mary Reilly) to a wider audience. The novel combines the drama of family relationships with larger themes of xenophobia, war, and genocide; it also juxtaposes the comfort of the American middle class with the horrors suffered by victims of ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world. Although a couple of reviewers found the plot forced at times, most praised Martin for her achievement. Brilliant writing, deftly-drawn characters, and a refusal to provide easy answers make this thought-provoking work a pleasure to read.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (September 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400095514
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400095513
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,404,966 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
At first glance, the premise of the novel seems straightforward enough: twenty-one-year old Toby returns to his parent's home with a new girlfriend on his arm, Salome, a Croat who arrived in America with her immigrant father and brother, fleeing the war in the Balkans. Toby is enthralled with this exotic female, her brisk determination and eroticism, proud to offer her to his liberal blue-state parents, illustrator Chloe Dale and husband Brendan, on sabbatical while writing of the Crusades. Brendan is immediately drawn to Salome, her "small vulpine face, very wily, determined, elusive too". But Chloe senses trouble in the manner Salome presents herself, an odd mix of disdain and rudeness that is unwarranted under the circumstances. Sensing her easy victory, Salome whispers imagined insults in Toby's ear, salting the relationship between girlfriend and mother with distrust and competition.

Given Salome's youth, attractiveness and background, there is no way for Chloe to win this contest and both women know it. How can a mother's love compete with the horrors of Bosnia and an intuitive understanding on Salome's part that the world gives you nothing if you don't take it for yourself. Salome understands her unique opportunity, a survivor, Toby a willing coconspirator who readily asks his parents for financial aid so the couple can get an apartment together at the university. At Salome's urging, Toby has no trouble accepting Brendan's credit card, raised to expect such generosity from his parents, although they are not rich. Vicariously thrilled with his son's conquest, Brendan bonds with Toby, man to man; Chloe retreats to her studio and her work on the images for Bronte's Wuthering Heights, worrying about the encroachment of a poacher on their land, an immigrant of indeterminate origin.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee, and Samuel P. Huntington all theorized about the ebb, flow, and clashes of civilizations and cultures. Valerie Martin, it can be said, follows in their footsteps in TRESPASS. But rather than produce a long, dry macroscopic history; she writes a micro-drama in the form of a finely-tuned, exquisitely-layered novel about the Dale family.

Brendan and Chloe Dale live an hour and a half from NYC, in the Catskill Mountains. They own ten acres that include a posted woods where an immigrant hunter persistently trespasses and tries to shoot deer, aggravating and unsettling Chloe. Chloe illustrates books, and her current commission, which she is painstakingly researching, is a special edition of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Brendan is professor writing about Frederick of Hohenstaufen, a thirteenth-century emperor rather neglected by history. Their son, Toby, is an honors student at New York University who meets and falls for Salome Drago, a volatile, abrasive young woman of Catholic Croatian descent who is also attending NYU. Salome was a child when she and her father and brothers fled their Balkans homeland during the ethnic cleansing. Right from their first meeting, Salome and Chloe squabble and skirmish.

In TRESPASS, Martin sets scene after scene to illustrate the shifting sands of culture, class, and civilization, including unflinching sections told by someone who remained in the festering, furious Balkans after Salome and most of her family escaped. This italic narrator relates the horrors witnessed and personally suffered as Yugoslavia violently dissolved into constituent, primarily ethnic states.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading "Trespass" was like reading two books; it began with tension created when Toby, Chloe and her husband, Brendan's only son, brings his new girlfriend, Salome, home with him from college. The author increases this tension with Salome's indifferent and somewhat hostile acts toward the parents, especially Chloe, who realizes that the two are sleeping together and learns later into the book that Salome is pregnant and Toby wants to marry her. She protests that they are too young - Toby is only 21! There is also a poacher shooting rabbits near their home despite her pleas to stop.
So far, so good. Then the author throws in a monkey wrench - by having Chloe die of a stroke. Blink!! The whole storyline shifts to Croatia, where Salome suddenly flys to find her mother who she thinks might be still alive after the Serbian/Croatian war. Toby follows and then Brendan and this new situation becomes the focus of the book until its ending. I found the book totally unsatisfying. It didn't follow through with its premise - that of trespass, by probable and threatening persons and situations.
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Format: Hardcover
The principle plot points of this book set the stage for all forms of intrusion and encroachment. A new character in a family's life threatens to change everything, a strange man hunting on private property lays a foundation of menace, and the characters collectively react by trying to protect what belongs to them, what feels like the established order of their lives. The tension and vague sense of danger that pervades the first two-thirds of the book had me turning pages, eager to get to the next development.

The removal of a central character in this novel ruins everything. The tension drains from the story like air from a punctured balloon. Thereafter, the plot drifts, story lines are left to wither, and the entire exercise feels a bit futile. The book is nicely written, but I can't help but think the energy and mood of the first two-thirds could have carried through to some pivotal confrontation and then, perhaps, to a discernible point.
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