Summary and book reviews of The American Lover by Rose Tremain

The American Lover

by Rose Tremain

The American Lover by Rose Tremain
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2015, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2016, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright

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About this Book

Book Summary

Rose Tremain awakens the senses in this magnificent and diverse collection of short stories.

Trapped in a London apartment, Beth remembers a transgressive love affair in 1960s Paris. The most famous writer in Russia takes his last breath in a stationmaster's cottage, miles from Moscow. A young woman who is about to marry a rich aristocrat instead begins a torrid relationship with a construction worker. A father, finally free of his daughter's demands, embarks on a long swim from his Canadian lakeside retreat. A middle-aged woman cares for her injured mother at Christmas. And in the grandest house of all, Danni the Polish housekeeper catches the eye of an enigmatic visitor, Daphne du Maurier.

Rose Tremain awakens the senses in this magnificent and diverse collection of short stories. In her precise yet sensuous style, she lays bare the soul of her characters - the admirable, the embarrassing, the unfulfilled, the sexy, and the adorable - to uncover a dazzling range of human emotions and desires.

1.

All day long, lying on the sofa in the sitting room of her parents' London mansion flat, Beth hears the clunk of the elevator doors opening and closing.

Sometimes, she hears voices on the landing – people arriving or departing – and then the long sigh of the elevator descending. She wishes there were no people, no elevator, no pain. She stares at the old-fashioned room. She stares at her crutches, propped up against a wing chair. In a few months' time she is going to be thirty.

There is a Portuguese maid, Rosalita, who comes in at two o'clock every day.

She is never late. Rosalita has a gentle face and plump, downy arms. As she sprays the furniture with beeswax polish, she will often talk about her old life, and this is the only thing that Beth enjoys – hearing about Rosalita's old life in a garment factory in Setúbal, making costumes for matadors. The places Rosalita describes are hot and bright and filled with the sound of sewing machines ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In the title story, Beth, a once-famous author, disabled in a car accident and long abandoned by her lover, says, "I did have a beautiful life. It ended early, that's all." Do you agree with this statement? Do you think it's good that Beth sees her life that way? Does the theme of the briefness of life's beauty echo through other stories in the collection? How so?
  2. What is the effect of the framing device in the title story? How would the story of "The American Lover" be different if it wasn't framed by Beth and Rosalita's dialogue?
  3. Who is the true captive of the story "Captive," Owen or the dogs? What keeps Owen in his family's old house? What forces, besides the cold, bring about his and the dogs' ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I highly recommend The American Lover to any reader who loves literary short stories, characters intricately drawn, and narratives that take you into the far-away lives of others while tethering you to the familiarity of such humanity that you will begin to see your own life in a new and clearer light. It would be a great book club choice.   (Reviewed by Sharry Wright).

Full Review (734 words).

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Media Reviews

Library Journal

Award-winning novelist Tremain (The Road Home) has written an exquisite collection of stories that span decades, continents, and the thin line between reality and imagination, with each piece fleshing out conflicts of the heart with masterly strokes.

Booklist

In this season of outstanding story collections… this one occupies space in the top drawer… Tremain’s adeptness at not only drawing in page-length but also, and more important, reducing theme and plot to a smaller scale while simultaneously creating a compelling narrative tension is to be admired.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. The breadth of subjects and settings is matched by "Starred Review. Wholly enthralling, these stories gleam with human desire and malice and hope as they move between Tolstoy's Russia, World War II France and present-day London.

Publishers Weekly

The breadth of subjects and settings is matched by Tremain’s exquisite prose. Readers might just want to take a break between stories, to savor the language and the images.

Reader Reviews

Diane S

The American Lover
Loved so many of these varied stories. Her writing is amazing, fitting each story in each country and time period perfectly. From the Jester of Astapovo, where a man who signals in the trains, abhors the fact that nothing will ever happen in his life...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Tolstoy's Death

In the story "The Jester of Astapovo," from The American Lover, a simple stationmaster's life is turned upside down when the world-famous author Count Leo Tolstoy, arrives, near death. The elderly and ailing Tolstoy really did die at the remote train station after fleeing his wife weeks earlier. His obituary in The New York Times began: Tolstoy Is Dead: Long Fight Over. ASTAPOVA, Sunday, Nov. 20, 1910 — Count Tolstoy died at 6:05 this morning. The Countess Tolstoy was admitted to the sickroom at 5:50. Tolstoy did not recognize her."

Leo Tolstoy Nearly a month earlier, Leo Tolstoy, one of the most famous men in Russia, had vanished from his home in the middle of the night and turned up two days later at Shamardino Convent where his sister ...

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