A. Knopf Canada, 2000
is an exemplary collection of short stories exploring
the events that make the lives of ordinary people remarkable. The
style is quiet and unadorned, without any unnecessary flashiness,
false dialogue, or improbable happenings to break the spell. At
the same time, the words put vivid pictures into the reader's mind.
The greatest testament to William Trevor's skill may be that he
never intrudes into his own stories. They simply exist, without
seeming to need an author.
Most of the stories
are set in Mr. Trevor's native Ireland. An exception is "Le Visiteur,"
which takes place in France. It is an unusual story about a powerful
but fleeting connection made between two people whose eyes meet
across the room in a restaurant. But in the majority of the stories,
two outstanding themes are the pain of Ireland's history and the
determination of the Irish to survive. One of the finest stories,
"The Mourning," tells the story of a young man who is drawn into
working for the IRA by a series of seemingly unremarkable events.
In "Low Sunday, 1950," a brother and sister reflect on how the Easter
1916 revolution changed their lives forever. "Of the Cloth" explores
the vulnerability of Ireland's Protestant and Catholic churches.
"The Virgin's Gift" takes readers to medieval Ireland, where a monk
is caught between visions of the Virgin Mary and his desire for
a normal life.
Other stories explore
the emotions of strongly delineated and believable characters: a
con woman who finds herself regretting a missed opportunity for
love with one of her victims, a professor who learns that his obituary
has appeared in four newspapers, a young man who accepts his unwanted
inheritance because it is his destiny. In most of the stories, Mr.
Trevor handles multiple points of view with ease. The dominant quality
of his storytelling is compassion: he presents even the most unsympathetic
characters as they are, without being judgmental or condescending.
The Hill Bachelors
is the best possible example of how a
good storyteller can create unforgettable tales and characters in
the space of just a few pages.