by Sherry Evans, Portsmouth Public Library
William Trevor considers himself to be ‘Irish in every vein’, and of the several books I have read by him, indeed, every page drips with brogue, Irish irony and self-deprecation, There are green, rolling meadows, flower gardens, sheep grazing, stonewalls and the sea. Against this background, characters fall in love, gossip, make mistakes, betray and land themselves in your heart.
To read a William Trevor novel is to become immersed in Ireland; to escape to a delightful, sometimes dark, heavy, place of human unpredictability, the cast of characters supported by a landscape that refuses to budge. Add a touch of quirkiness and subtle humor to the mix and you have a richly, nuanced story. Trevor’s first novel, Old Boys, was published in 1964 when he was an unknown author. Since then he has published prolifically and is especially known for his short stories.
The day advanced in Rathmoye. Disturbed by death, the town settled again into its many routines.
Number 4 The Square was put to rights after nearly a hundred sympathizers had accepted the invitation to funeral refreshment.
If this was a mystery, it would be called a ‘cozy’, that is, the entire story takes place either in Rathmoye or very nearby. As with so many cozies, the introduction of a stranger into the town’s familiar patterns and rituals disturbs the equilibrium. This stranger, Florian Kilderry, camera in hand, arrives on the very same day as town matron Mrs. Connulty is being processed through town to her final resting place in the church cemetery. He is ‘noticed’ by all the town folks, especially when he enters the dilapidated town cinema without permission. Miss Connulty, daughter of the deceased is most interested in the stranger.
“I heard it there was a man photographing the funeral,’ his sister said.
I didn’t see that.
It was remarked upon in the house here. It was wondered did we want photographs.
I didn’t see any man.
I’m only telling you what was said.”
Young Florian is lost in the world. His artistic, flamboyant parents drained the life out of Shelhanaugh House, their home, when they died and their always precarious financial state meant the house fell into disrepair. Unattached in the world, Florian can think of only one strategy – sell the house and everything in it and move away. But his interest has been piqued by Rathmoye and his chance encounter with Ellie Dillahan, a local farmer’s wife and former orphan, as she is delivering eggs to the town folk.
Ellie’s days flow one after the other, with nary a diversion. Even though her marriage was arranged by the sisters of the convent, her husband, Mr. Dillahan is a good man and she is thankful for this. He, however, has never fully recovered from the tractor accident that killed his wife and child and remains a taciturn man.
“She sat in the yard on one of the kitchen chairs, with her tea and the Nenagh News. A pickaxe had been found in the boot of a car when its driver was arrested, declared drunk. Ore had been discovered near Toomyvara; Killeen’s Pride had won twice at Ballingarry. Top prices were being paid for ewes.”
The story moves along somewhat predictably, ie, boy meets girl. A sinful dalliance begins. Gossip spreads throughout the town. In an effort to save Ellie, Miss Connulty befriends her, thinking to make right her own sins. The town eccentric, librarian Orpen Wren, may talk nonsense most of the time, but on occasion his ramblings are lucid. But although predictable, it is the language and setting that sets this story apart from a run-of-the-mill cozy or romance novel.
I savored every paragraph; every sparse interchange and all that wasn’t said. You may predict the ending; you may not, but how Trevor gets you there needs to be relished.
Published in the Senior Magazine Supplement (Portsmouth Herald, Portsmouth, NH) on February 20th, 2013.
New York Times Book Review for Love and Summer.