A novel about a young woman who, as tenant of an English country house, becomes fixated on a room she’s not supposed to enter, and the man whose room it used to be. 1939.
Apologies for the radio silence, dear readers! Since you last heard from me, I have: received a promotion, bought a house, traveled abroad, gotten engaged, and acquired five adorable chickens! It’s been a busy time, to be sure.
Last week, though, I read a book that has been on my list for so long, and turned out to be such a great read, that I simply have to share. I first learned about Tryst from a fellow blogger (sorry, don’t remember who!), and the brief plot description was sufficient to draw me in. The obstacle, prior to last week, was that this book is incredibly rare, and existing copies are very expensive.
Dear fiance works for a university, though, and it recently occurred to me to check their library system for this book. Success!! And folks: this book does not disappoint.
Tryst has a striking, ephemeral quality to it–which is fitting, since it follows an affair between two people who never actually “meet” in the traditional sense.
Raised by her father and aunt, both of whom are emotionally distant, and never quite fitting in at her boarding schools, Sabrina is used to living in her own world. When her father relocates the family to a remote English village in pursuit of his scholarly research, Sabrina goes along passively, as she usually seems to do. Upon their arrival, the housekeeper informs them that they are not to go into the locked room at the top of the stairs; it’s the bedroom of the grown son who wasn’t available to clear his things out before the tenants’ arrival.
Sabrina fixates instantly on this locked door and the mystery of the room behind it. In no time at all, she picks the lock, gets in trouble with the housekeeper, and yet persists in sneaking away to spend time in the room. We join her in this strange quest of piecing together clues left by the room’s previous inhabitant. In spite of reading all of his books and studying the artifacts of his boyhood, Sabrina puzzles over something so simple as this man’s name.
The next part of the narrative switches to the man’s story. He’s a special agent in the British military, currently on a top-secret mission in India.
He had missed England, of course–missed the serene, unhurried, green-clad background of the cool English countryside, where it is still possible to forget that the twentieth century has got a bit out of hand, and to conceive a world miraculously empty of machines. And sometimes he had thought of England with a kind of gratitude, or rather a thanksgiving that such a place still existed in a complicated modern world–a place where a man’s home is still more or less his castle, where a people with jolly, unfurtive faces still lined the curbs to cheer a smiling, friendly ruler who was still His Majesty, and where spring still came so sweetly in secluded lanes and unregimented villages.
His plane crashes and he’s dangerously injured, quickly losing consciousness. As he slips away, there’s something pulling at him, though; something pulling him back to his childhood home…some reason he needs to go back there…
I won’t reveal any more, because the next development heralds the true delight of the novel. One of my main joys in reading Tryst is that circumstances seem to make a happy ending impossible–but I have to say that the ending is still absolutely perfect.
Have you read any of Thane’s work before? Aside from being obsessed with the lispy perfection of her name (which, it turns out, is actually very long), I’ve tried to get into her Williamsburg series, but without much success. Suggestions would be much appreciated! Then I’ll just have to hunt down the books. 😉