CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Rose Tremain praises the power of friendship

PUBLISHED: 10:35 31 May 2016 | UPDATED: 10:35 31 May 2016

Rose Tremain

Rose Tremain


Catherine Larner talks to headline authors appearing at Felixstowe Book Festival. East Anglia-based Rose Tremain has just published her latest novel, the Gustav Sonata

We used to appreciate books for the stories they told, but these days we are as much fascinated by the authors as we are their work.

“It seems that the public, if they like our books, want to know what kind of mind dreamed them up,” says the award-winning novelist, Rose Tremain. “And perhaps this is not so unreasonable. Talking to audiences often illuminates something new for me about my own work.” But she thinks authors shouldn’t be too interested in parading their own biographies.

“The books speak most articulately for us.” Rose has published five collections of short stories and her new book, The Gustav Sonata, is her 14th novel. Spanning three periods in Switzerland before, during and after the Second World War, the novel explores the lives of two families and a friendship between two male characters, Gustav and Anton, from childhood to middle age.

“I was drawn to the idea of exploring the differences between love and friendship and between passion and self-control,” she says. “Switzerland, with its difficult-to-sustain idea of ‘neutrality’ was the ideal setting.

“My daughter, who is a psychotherapist, said a wise thing to me about friendship – that we should treat our friends with as much consideration and care as we show towards our closest family. Friendship is a commitment. But as our lives go on, perhaps we feel that we can’t sustain this kind of commitment to very many people. In The Gustav Sonata, both men understand that the friendship is significant, but because only one of them comprehends its true nature, it threatens to destroy them both.”

It is astonishing to discover the range of subjects Rose has covered, from the reign of Charles II in Restoration, to an Eastern European worker in The Road Home, and 19th century settlers in New Zealand in The Colour. She can write compellingly as a male or female narrator of any age, in any period.

“Immersion in characters unlike myself has never been hard for me,” she says. “My imagination is fired up by embarking on this. In the contemporary world, people are deranged by their own solipsism. To explore outside the limits of the self is to be set free.”

Formerly a tutor of creative writing, and now chancellor of the University of East Anglia, Rose is passionate but pragmatic about fiction writing.

“If you can’t undertake the hard graft of research and you can’t project imaginatively, perhaps you shouldn’t be a writer,” she says. “If you write about the things you would like to discover, then the act of writing becomes not only an act of telling, but also an act of learning. You will know more at the end than when you began.”

Rose ultimately chose to step away from teaching others to write, for fear it was impinging on her own creativity.

“There are two sides to a writer’s mind – the knowing, analytical, technical side and the unknowing, dreamy side. To create a truthful fiction, both of these need to be working well. As my teaching role went on, the unknowing side of my mind became more and more censored by the analytical side. I figured that if this went on all my unformed new ideas would be strangled before birth.” She works happily in the home she shares with biographer Richard Holmes, gaining inspiration from the landscape.

“I’ve lived in East Anglia for about half my life. I’ve been able to write about it with great affection, but with a certain enabling detachment. It has a wildness, beauty and conflicting desolation which is perfect for the stories I was developing there. And I love my house,” she says of her Norwich home. “It’s sheltered so much crazy endeavour.”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EADT Suffolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EADT Suffolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EADT Suffolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

What makes the perfect Christmas? For most of us it’s good food, good drink and good company, wherever we call home. And in Suffolk we’re lucky to have some great people in the food and drink industry who ensure we always have a great time | Words: Jayne Lindill

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

From her great uncle’s First World War diary Vicky Gunnell pieced together the career of a pioneer in aerial photography at Orford Ness and Martlesham Heath

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Spirit Yachts is a Suffolk success story. After 25 years of designing and building luxury vessels sailed all over the world, it has plenty to celebrate | Words: Ross Bentley

Read more
Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Private, intimate and unforgettable: here’s why you should consider a bespoke package wedding at a stately home

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

An exclusive charity sale at Bishop & Miller gives Ed Sheeran fans the chance to own some of the singer’s personal items

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

October . . . the month for the unusual and the unexplained. Pip Wright delves into Suffolk’s strange, bewildering history of witchcraft | Words: Pip Wright

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tessa Allingham sits down to dinner prepared by some of the county’s most talented chefs and their most promising protegés

Read more
Friday, October 5, 2018

John White has lived and worked at the tiny hamlet of Felixstowe Ferry for almost all of his 79 years | Words & Photos: Mike Trippitt

Read more
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Thinking of boarding school for your child but have concerns? There might be a flexible boarding option to suit you at Royal Hospital School, Ipswich

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Barrister Sarah Langford hopes her fictionalised accounts of some of the challenging cases she’s defended will give people a deeper understanding of the justice system | Words: Catherine Larner - Photo: Sophia Schorr-Kon

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search