Rose Tremain Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Rose Tremain, born Rose Thomson, began writing at the age of ten, when her father’s sudden abandonment of his family motivated her to express her feelings through the written word. It was only after being encouraged by the novelist Angus Wilson in a university course that she began seriously to consider becoming an author, however; Wilson was very important to, and supportive of, her subsequent development. She studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of East Anglia before becoming a teacher of English, French, and history at the junior high school level in Great Britain. After working as a subeditor and researcher for the BPC Publishing Group, she became a full-time writer in the mid-1970’s and published her first novel, Sadler’s Birthday, in 1976.

Although young authors are often advised to write what they know, Tremain took quite a different tack in creating a body of work that ranges widely over historical periods and human types. The protagonist of her first novel, for example, is a seventy-six-year-old man who is about to have another birthday, but Jack Sadler is not entirely sure exactly when this will occur. Alone and in failing health, he nonetheless carries on with the determination to make sense out of the past events that periodically pop up in his consciousness, and the result is an intriguing story that belies its commonplace materials. Letter to Sister Benedicta, in which a fiftyish housewife copes with her husband’s debilitating stroke, and The Cupboard, whose protagonist is an eighty-seven-year-old writer explaining the reasons for her suicide, also demonstrate a remarkable ability to write sympathetically about the kinds of older subjects who are too often scorned by authors anxious to appear youthful and contemporary.

Tremain’s literary status was significantly enhanced by her selection as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 1983. This special issue of the magazine has achieved cult status among students...

(The entire section is 826 words.)


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Rose Tremain was born Rosemary Jane Thomson on August 2, 1943, in London. Her parents, Keith Nicholas Thomson and Viola Thomson, separated when she was ten years old, and she became estranged from her playwright father. Before attending the Sorbonne in Paris, where she received a diploma in literature in 1962, she was educated at a variety of boarding schools, including Crofton Grange School. She graduated from the University of East Anglia with a B.A. in English studies in 1965. While a student there, she took classes with novelist Angus Wilson; later, she taught creative writing there herself (from 1988 to 1995). She also worked for two years as an elementary school teacher and for two years as an editor at the British Printing Corporation. In 1973 her first published work appeared: The Fight for Freedom for Women, a nonfiction work about the woman suffrage movement.

In 1971, she secretly married Jon Tremain, her college boyfriend, and they had one daughter, Eleanor, who was born in 1972. The couple divorced after five years. In 1982 Tremain married Jonathan Dudley, a theater director. That marriage also ended in divorce, and in 1992 Tremain began a longtime relationship with the well-known biographer Richard Holmes.