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Sacred Country Paperback – June 1, 1995
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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
From Publishers Weekly
Highly regarded in England, Tremain has yet to win her discriminating audience here, although her seventh work of fiction, Restoration , brought her fine reviews on these shores. Her latest novel, shortlisted for the Booker Prize, is a deceptively simple but intensely imaginative work that explores the issues of sexual identity and the inchoate longings of those who have secret lives. In an epiphanic moment in 1952, when she is six, Mary Ward, the child of a poor farming family in Suffolk, realizes that she was meant to be a boy. Related with insight and compassion, Mary's struggle to change her sex is one component of a moving story that also illuminates her parents' disastrous marriage and the lives of other villagers. Brutalized by her father and emotionally abandoned by her mentally fragile mother, who frequently takes refuge in the local asylum, Mary is given succor by others. Tremain has a remarkable ability to create characters of shining, honest goodness--people capable of extraordinary decency, generosity and love. Mary's benevolent grandfather, a doughty teacher, an elderly widower who marries the mother of Mary's dearest friend--these people are sure of their places in life, and they try to help Mary deal with her transsexualism. If Mary (aka Martin) is not so appealing, if her misery makes her hard and self-centered, Tremain refuses to trivialize her hero(ine)'s ordeal. Other characters--Mary's brother, the village butcher's son who wants to sing country and western music in Nashville--also must find their own way, realizing as Mary does that "we're all something else inside." Seen against the background of three decades of history and social change, this is an affecting and often quite humorous narrative that asks provocative questions and challenges the reader's perceptions about the essence of being. (Apr.) .
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The author has clearly researched the issue of transgenderism (?) in considerable detail, giving us a real insight through Mary/Martin to the desperate struggle these divided individuals face. But that is not the only theme of this novel, whose prose is amongst some of the most vivid of modern times.
I had enjoyed previous books by this author and so was surprised to find this offering unattractive in style, character portrayal and story.
I couldn't wait to reach the end, even that was poor.