In Rosie: Scenes from a vanished life by Rose Tremain the author has written about her family history, going back to the memories that she had of her maternal grandparent’s home, a place that she and her sister adored visiting, despite the fact that their grandmother was remote and gave them no love. She had been traumatised by the death of her two sons years before, one was killed in World War I but before that another had died while at school when he was only 16. Rose Tremain’s mother had suffered from this unloving mother who mourned all her life for her lost beloved sons, forgetting that she still had a daughter who was alive. In fact the daughter’s very presence seems to have been a source of pain and at the age of only six she was sent away to a boarding school, despite the school supposedly not taking in girls until they were at least eight.
It’s that daughter, Rose’s mother, who went on to replicate that unloving and selfish behaviour when her own daughters were born, but the abusive upbringing seems not to have been carried on by Rose Tremain’s generation, almost certainly because for most of their formative years Rose and her sister were lucky enough to get a lot of love from their beloved and selfless nanny. Leaving the parents to get on with all sorts of bed-hopping which culminated in ‘dolly mixture’ families of step-siblings.
I’m assuming that Rose Tremain will go on to write another book about her later life, but obviously she felt that there was a lot that she had to get off her chest about her parents in particular. Her father was neglectful too, a not very successful playwright, whose existence did at least make her realise that it would be possible for her to become a writer eventually.
Rose was a good student and was expected to get into Oxford but at the age of 15 she was ripped away from her studies by her mother who was determined that her daughter was not going to go to university. A finishing school in Switzerland was what she got instead, but luckily it hasn’t held Rose Tremain back and maybe her experiences abroad and the people she met were inspiring for her later writing.
Sadly Rose Tremain’s mother and grandmother weren’t unique in viewing their daughters with disdain and dislike, determined to put as many obstacles in front of them as possible. I hope that sort of mothering has died out now – but who knows what goes on within any family. I will never forget overhearing my own mother tell her friend that there was no point in putting any effort into daughters as they just grew up to push prams!
This was quite an interesting book, it’s always good to read about the background of a writer, but her fiction is far preferrable to me.