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Summary

Random House presents the audiobook edition of Rosie: Scenes from a Vanished Life, written and read by Rose Tremain. 

Rose Tremain grew up in postwar London, a city of grey austerity, still partly in ruins, where both food and affection were fiercely rationed. The girl known then as ‘Rosie’ and her sister, Jo, spent their days longing for their grandparents' farm, buried deep in the Hampshire countryside, a green paradise of feasts and freedom, where they could at last roam and dream.

But when Rosie is 10 years old, everything changes. She and Jo lose their father, their London house, their school, their friends and - most agonisingly of all - their beloved Nanny, Vera, the only adult to have shown them real love and affection. 

Briskly dispatched to a freezing boarding school in Hertfordshire, they once again feel like imprisoned castaways. But slowly the teenage Rosie escapes from the cold world of the '50s, into a place of inspiration and mischief, of loving friendships and dedicated teachers, where a young writer is suddenly ready to be born.

©2018 Rose Tremain (P)2018 Random House Audiobooks

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  • Carol
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 20-04-18

Beautiful book

Most authors who attempt to read their own work fail miserably, but this is a marvel! Rose Tremain’s delicate and gentle voice, filled with a sort of resigned acceptance of her story, only emphasises the extraordinary triumph
of her spirit over the adversity inflicted upon her by her early life. I wanted to listen again as soon as it was finished.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Good - but softly spoken

Perhaps those producing the recording should have realised that Rose Tremain (wonderful writer that she is) extremely softly spoken and adjusted a few buttons on the sound mixing desk to compensate for this. Even with the volume on my IPad turned up to the limit I found myself straining to hear her. It didn't quite spoil it but it was irritating at times through no fault of the narrator who can't help her voice.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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'It deepens like a coastal shelf'

I loved this finely judged slim memoir. Avoiding the memoirist’s pitfall of self-indulgent prolixity, Rose Tremain’s language (as in her 13 novels and many short stories) is spare and delicately chosen. The life extends from early childhood to the end of her formal education.

Tremain’s heart was set on Oxford, a longing described by her mother (referred to throughout significantly merely as ‘Jane’) as ‘an inappropriate dream’. She did not want ‘a bluestocking for a daughter’, nor did she want her around. Rosie (as she was known) was sent to a finishing school in Switzerland where she learned ski-ing and secretarial skills.

Rosie’s background was privileged – servants (her nanny was Rosie’s sole source of love), idle leisure and property. Post-war boarding school was bitterly cold, food was scarce and Rosie started marking off the days on her ‘term worm’ (her grid of the days as a worm) from the first day of each term. But after some time her beloved teacher Robbie (who taught in a fur coat against the cold) opened up poetry for her and assuaged her homesickness.

But what makes the memoir so moving as well as a fascinating vignette of a vanished era (Tremain was born in 1943) are the tragic dynamics of the family’s three generations. Larkin’s ‘Man hands on misery to man, it deepens like a coastal shelf’ could have been written for Rosie’s family. Inside their beautiful Linkenholt Manor (a rural sanctuary for Rosie and her sister Jo) Rosie’s grandparents lived crucified by the grief of losing both their sons, a loss so grievous that Rosie’s mother, unloved Jane, knew she was no compensation. She was sent off to boarding school at six (two years younger than all the other children). She grew up to become an abandoned wife and an unloving cruelly neglectful mother to Rosie and Jo.

But Tremain’s touch is light: analysis and insight without judgement beautifully read – a feat in itself as few writers read their own work well.