Sacred Country
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Sacred Country

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  517 ratings  ·  58 reviews
At the age of six, Mary Ward, the child of a poor farming family in Suffolk, has a revelation: she isn't Mary, she's a boy. So begins Mary's heroic struggle to change gender, while around her others also strive to find a place of safety and fulfilment in a savage and confusing world.
Kindle Edition, 340 pages
Published (first published 1992)
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Mary Ward stands shivering in a Suffolk, England field in February, 1952 and realizes she is meant to be a boy. She is just six years old. Within its opening pages Sacred Country promises to take you on a literary journey that will be long and painful. Rest assured, it will also be beautiful and transformative.

Although Mary and her quest for her physical identity are at the heart of Sacred Country, it is a book full of souls searching for emotional purchase. Mary's mother has a tenuous grip on...more
Sacred Country has at its core, the story of Mary Ward who in 1952, at six years old, while standing in the middle of a field in Suffolk in a silence intended to mark the death of the king, realises that she is a boy trapped in a girl's body. The novel follows her struggle with the implications of this realisation, culminating thirty years later in hormone treatment and a double mastectomy.

The story is also filled with the voices of the people around Mary - her brother, father, mother, grandfat...more
It's a real masterpiece. I was overwhelmed by Rose Tremain flawless smooth style of writing in this book. I not only touched but lived each of the characters as if I were the angel watching him. I may even knew things about the characters that the angels watching them may didn't know about them. Well, if you are a guy who is fond of thrillers like me and you wanna read something different as a change, I recommend this book. you will find it wrote on the cover that it's about Mary finding her sel...more
This is the second Tremain book I read, and her writing continues to astound me; it has a quiet magnificence to it. She also does a splendid job of weaving together stories which, in the hands of a less talented writer, could become unpleasantly entangled.

Rose Tremain is one of my favourite authors, although I haven’t read one of hers in a while. I tend to save them up for times when I just want a good book.

This was a good book, I enjoyed it so perhaps it says more about my reading mood that I didn’t enjoy it quite so much as I thought I would. Or maybe Tremain has just come to the end of her ability to shake my reading world. As time goes by, my reading preferences and desires and enjoyments change through experience.

Sacred Country is about a...more
Loved this. Loved this. Loved this. While the storyline and circumstances described are a bit somber, this was ultimately a really inspiring read. You follow the life of a remarkable young girl who from the age of six knows that she is really meant to be a boy. The main story is interesting enough, but there is an inter-weaving of characters, each with their own remarkable character development and growth. The relationship between Mary and her grandfather is beautiful to read. And very simply, t...more
Bleak, bleak, bleak. Only because I am a big fan of Rose Tremain's work did I force myself to finish this. Tremain's characters are exiles of one kind or another, sundered from their true home or true nature by external forces, struggling to find a way to spiritual integrity, to a metaphorical home they only vaguely intuit the existence of. In Sacred Country, the struggle is horrendous and unending. Too much, too bleak.
hard to read, and depressing, but worthwhile. the main character has a revelation at the age of 6 that she is a boy and spends the rest of her life trying to make the outside match the inside. along with her story is that of another man in her town, who also feels that his life is meant to be different from the one he was given. it's a beautiful way to create empathy.
Not a plot driven book, Candace might like this...oh wait poor Rose is still alive. Wonderfully written, stick it out it's okay it all comes down the the last quarter; I read those pages in one sitting. Did not like how the characters are created into their sexuality; there was not enough of their nature in themselves.
"I felt my heart jump about inside my aertex blouse. I felt thirsty and very peculiarly sad. I thought I might cry, which was a thing I never did, but sometimes you cry with your face and your mind isn't in it, but somewhere else, watching you. It was like that. It was my face that felt sad" (14).
“Cause so swift and foolish; effect so endless” (38).
“Mary was repelled. She despised Miss Vista. She wanted to hurl her green tennis ball at her face. She wanted a real wind to come and swoop her up in...more
Huw Rhys
Vast parts of this book are like "The Mill on the Floss" on tranquilizers, it's so slow and ponderous.

These tedious bits are punctuated by stories of disease, depression, depravity and death. These are the main devices driving the plot.

Most of the characters struggle with their own self identities, and all go on journeys - metaphorically as well as physically. As you would surmise by now, few reach a better place - the luckier ones just about manage to stay still.

Maybe the whole conceit of the n...more
A fan of Rose Tremain, this book doesn't feature subject matter which can be described as "enjoyable." Rather, it is thought-provoking, disturbing at times, and downright depressing at others. Yet her characters are so interesting that any lack of plot has me care enough about them to keep on reading regardless. Not one of my favourites, but have recommended to my book group.
Fran devaney
Another astonishing read from Rose Tremain. Follows Mary Ward and her family commencing in post war Britain. Mary is six years old and during the family's observance of a two minute silent for the late King in a wet and cold Suffolk field Mary comes to the realisation that she is a boy. Story follows her long and often painful journey towards her goal to become Martin. The development tof the characters is fantastic. Mary’s mother struggles with her sanity, her father with his inability to make...more
Sarah (TotalTeenFiction)
For a book I wouldn't have chosen myself, this turned out to be a really enjoyable read! The characters were well thought out and you were able to journey with them as the book went on, you really came to feel for them and care about what happened to them, particularly the main character. The descriptions of the scenery and locations were wonderful, and drew you right in to the book. One of the things I enjoyed most was the fact this book was set over a period of decades, and how it incorperated...more
This was the first Rose Tremain book I have read, and I found it utterly absorbing.

Throughout the book we follow Mary, a young girl who early on in her life, has the realisation that she is, infact, a boy, and struggle to become Martin. However, is the also the story of a large group of interlinking characters trapped by their life and upbringing in rural Suffolk.

The book for me said something about the rite of passage of finding freedom, and living your life as you need to. Everyone is born wi...more
Angela Young
What do you do when you know you've been born into the wrong body? How much courage does it take to make the changes - physical and psychological - necessary to become the person you know you are, really?

This is a multi-voiced novel (a favourite structure of mine) but first and foremost, it is Mary Martin Ward’s story: the story of a boy struggling to find his way in the world, and way out into the world, from within the prison of a girl’s body. So, obviously, it's an identity crisis dramatised...more
An excellent book that I read within two days, marred only by the abrupt ending and the insistence of using the name 'Mary' and the pronoun 'she' throughout.
Evelyn Shunaman
While I didn't dislike the book, I found it immediately difficult to remember, which is telling in and of itself.
Saz Gee
Oh just read it. I stumbled across it with little idea of the plot & I think you should too. Another tour de force.
This was well-written, but DAMN, it was depressing. Considering the original publication date, that's not surprising. Also, not much has changed, really, in terms of publishing and trans characters in YA lit. This book is an odd combination of unrealistic (there is no hatred directed toward the main character, from anyone in the book, for her decision, which considering the time period of the story is, well, questionable) and tragi-trans. But NO ONE in this book is happy, so...yeah. I wouldn't r...more
A beautiful book of lives full of yearning, of trapped lives, dysfunctional relationships, nurturing relationships, finding out who you are or what you should be. The pain and awkwardness of the characters is dealt with very matter-of-fctly, without big emotions. But I would have liked a few big emotions, as relief from the struggles of life. I think this is why I'm rating it three and not four stars. The writing at times is exquisite - simple comparisons or a world said in a few short words - s...more
Sonja Trbojevic
Beginning in 1952, in rural East Anglia, and concluding in Nashville, Tennessee, 24 years later, this is primarily the story of Mary Ward, who, at the age of 6, realises she is not a girl. This belief informs the course of her life, as she seeks to remedy the mistake of her gender. The lives of Mary/Martin, and those around her, are explored by Tremain, as they all come to terms with their own recognition of the "self-within-the-self".
Another very well.written Tremain book. It had a note on the back about being comedic but i never found that. It was however a very emotional book in the sense of lost minds, lost hearts, lost dreams, change in the sense of adverisity,at all costs, selfless and selfish beyond belief. I enjoyed it. Set in the east of england with references to places i know an love help the story flow.
Kate Butchart
Beautifully written as always, and considering this was a book about a trangendered child in the 1950s there was remarkably little suffering or sadness, which I liked. However I feel like Rose Tremain was trying to tell too many stories in one book; around halfway through I found myself skim reading anything that wasn't Mary because I just wanted to find out what happened to her next.
Terence Bly
Outstanding storytelling, I never thought I'd find the tale of a trans-gender person so compelling, but Rose Tremain is a great writer. Buy this book and if you di=on't give it 5 stars then I'll give you your money back.
I'm enjoying Rose Tremain's books more and more - she seems to be able to tackle any area of humanity and write very entertainingly about it. This book was lovely, with many complex characters in it, and a tough main subject - a girl who felt she should have been a man and who did something about it. I look forward to reading another of Rose's books in the future.

A good read and I enjoyed it. The only comment I have to add is that I had to keep turning back the pages to remind myself that the story is based in Suffolk. Somehow it has the flavour of being in the Deep South of America. I'm not sure why, but when finally some characters do end up in Nashville, I felt that the author was more at home!
Quite a stiff and repetitive writing style, but a couple of lovely insights in this book.
'We're all something else inside. Old Varindra explained that to me. But he said it's a mistake to think the inner thing is fully formed. It can't possibly be. Nothing grows properly in the dark.'
'When you are apart from something, it is easier to be wise about it'
Great stuff. Rose surprises me again. Desperately moving throughout. None of the other characters felt unnecessary or distracted in any way from the central story. The settings and the time period also seemed spot on. One of those books I had to read slowly to give the character the attention she deserved.
Joe Stamber
Another fine outing from RT, this time about a young girl who is convinced she is a boy. The reader follows her story as she struggles through childhood and onwards, supported by a great cast of characters as usual. This one took me a little longer than usual to get into, but was worth it once I did.
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Rose Tremain's best-selling novels have won many awards, including the Orange Prize (The Road Home), the Whitbread Novel of the Year (Music & Silence), the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and the Prix Femina Etranger (Sacred Country). Restoration, the first of her novels to feature Robert Merivel, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1989 and made into a film in 1995. She lives in Norfolk a...more
More about Rose Tremain...
The Road Home The Colour Restoration Music and Silence Trespass

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“There is something about the unexpected that moves us. As if the whole of existance is paid for in some way, except for that one moment, witch is free.” 5 likes
“The world is packed with mistery. We tend to forget this, but itțs still packed tight with it, like water in stone.” 2 likes
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