Trevor, William (Vol. 116)
William Trevor 1928–
(Full name William Trevor Cox) Irish short story writer, novelist, and dramatist.
The following entry presents an overview of Trevor's career through 1998. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 7, 9, 14, 25, and 71.
Considered one of the premier writers in English alive today, Trevor has earned the highest praise from critics who compare him to fellow Irishman James Joyce. Trevor is known for his skill in describing the lives of unhappy, unloved, self-delusional characters, and evoking sympathy and humor rather than pity or ridicule for his misfits. Although his short stories and novels are not widely known outside Britain, Trevor has consistently won numerous awards and has enjoyed a prolific career.
Trevor was born in Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland on May 24, 1928. Born into a Protestant family in a predominantly Catholic area, Trevor moved frequently as a result of his father's job. Attending thirteen schools throughout his youth, Trevor claims that he felt like an outsider and this gave him a greater ability to observe others, a talent he would later use in his writing. He attended Sandford Park School in Dublin and St. Columbia's College in Dublin before receiving a B.A. in history from Trinity College in 1950. In the early 1950s Trevor took a number of teaching posts in Northern Ireland and England while also pursuing a successful career as a sculptor. He married Jane Ryan in 1952, with whom he had two sons, Patrick and Dominic. After becoming disillusioned with sculpting, he published his first novel, A Standard Behaviour, in 1958. Through the early 1960s he worked as a advertising copywriter while simultaneously pursuing his writing career. He quit the advertising job to pursue writing full time in 1965, the same year he won the Hawthornden Prize for literature for his second novel Old Boys (1964). Since then, he has won the Benson Medal in 1975 for Angles at the Ritz and Other Stories (1975), an Allied Irish Bank Prize for Literature in 1976, the Heinemann Award for fiction in 1976, the Whitbread Prize in 1978 for The Children of Dynmouth (1976) and again in 1983 for Fools of Fortune (1983), the Irish community Prize in 1979 and the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award in 1994 for Felicia's Journey (1994). In addition, he was awarded honorary doctorates of literature from University of Exeter; Trinity College, Dublin; Queens University, Belfast, and National University of Ireland, Cork, as well as being awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire. Many of Trevor's works have been adapted into popular and award winning television movies and radio and theater plays. He continues to live and write in England.
Trevor is known for his short stories and novels about people on the fringe of society, living in old boarding houses and hotels, who are unhappy and lonely. Set in England, novels such as The Boarding House (1965), Mrs. Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel (1969), and The Children of Dynmouth (1976) as well as his early short story collections deal with "the theme of loneliness and hunger for love …" to quote Julian Gitzen. In his novels and stories his characters search for the truth, although not all of them are willing to accept it. Particularly well known, Trevor's story "The Ballroom of Romance" recounts a young woman's decision to accept her fate and marry an alcoholic bachelor rather than continue to dream of a better life. In the 1980s Trevor turned his attention to Ireland and the political turmoil there. Setting many of his works in the past, he focused on themes of retribution, forgiveness, conflict, and isolation. Fools of Fortune (1983) centers upon a man living in self-imposed exile in Italy after the death of his family in the Anglo-Irish war. The novel links the importance of history, both personal and national, in shaping destiny, as well as the ways in which people create their own isolation. Stories in his collections The News from Ireland (1986) and Beyond the Pule, and Other Stories (1981) such as "Attracta", "Beyond the Pale", "Another Christmas," and "The News From Ireland" explore the conflict between Catholics and Protestants, arguing that while the past cannot be forgotten, forgiveness can bring restitution. After Rain (1996), a collection of short stories, and Felicia's Journey (1994) constitute Trevor's later works. The former centers on revelations of truth in twelve stories which are thematically connected, while the latter focuses on the destruction of a young unwed pregnant Irish girl and the forces who prey upon her.
Critics of Trevor's work contend that he is among the greatest short story writers of the late twentieth century. Compared with James Joyce, Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Henry James, and Samuel Beckett, Trevor is praised for his dark humor, his intimate portraits of sad, delusional characters, and his skill at evoking commonplace but lonely settings. Gary Krist writes that Trevor is "arguably the English-speaking world's premier practitioner of a certain brand of artistically distanced fiction …" and Stephen Schiff contends that "Trevor is probably the greatest living writer of short stories in the English language…." Suzanne Morrow Paulson holds that not enough attention has been paid to Trevor's novels. She and other critics assert that within his novels Trevor perfects his character development and merges the tragic and comic. However, others argue that Trevor's work is uneven. James Lasden states: "A faltering muse seems to preside over [Trevor's] work, with the habit of bestowing superb openings, then disappearing, sometimes to return at the last moment, sometimes not." Other critics of Trevor's Collected Stories agree that the quality of his work fluctuates and that some of his characters fail to capture Trevor's interest and falter. However, Lasden concludes that "(w)hat Trevor does have … is something approaching genius for conveying ordinary human unhappiness."
A Standard of Behaviour (novel) 1958
The Old Boys (novel) 1964; (play) 1971
The Boarding House (novel) 1965
The Love Department (novel) 1966
The Day We Got Drunk on Cake and Other Stories (short stories) 1967
Mrs. Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel (novel) 1969
Miss Gomez and the Brethren (novel) 1971
The Ballroom of Romance and Other Stories (short stories) 1972
Going Home (play) 1972
Elizabeth Alone (novel) 1973
The Fifty-Seventh Saturday (play) 1973
A Perfect Relationship (play) 1973
Marriages (play) 1974
Angels at the Ritz and Other Stories (short stories) 1975
The Children of Dynmouth (novel) 1976
Old School Ties (short stories) 1976
Lovers of Their Time and Other Stories (short stories) 1978
The Distant Past and Other Stories (short stories) 1979
Other People's Worlds (novel) 1980
Beyond the Pale and Other Stories (short stories) 1981
Scenes from an Album (play) 1981
Fools of Fortune (novel) 1983
The Stories of William Trevor (short stories) 1983
A Writer's Ireland: Landscape in Literature (nonfiction) 1984
The News from Ireland and Other Stories (short stories) 1986
Nights at the Alexandra (short stories) 1987
The Silence in the Garden (novel) 1988
Family Sins and...
(The entire section is 201 words.)
Show us the love and view this for free! Use the facebook like button, or any other share button on this page, and get this content free!free!
SOURCE: "The Truth-Tellers of William Trevor," in Critique, Vol. 21, No. 1, 1979, pp. 59-72.
[In the following essay, Gitzen explores the themes of loneliness and self-delusion in Trevor's work.]
Since the appearance of his first novel, A Standard of Behavior (1958), William Trevor has published a total of eleven volumes of fiction. Despite the popularity of The Old Boys (1964), The Boarding House (1965), and The Ballroom of Romance (1972), extensive analysis of his writing is as yet in short supply. Reviewers, on the other hand, have neither ignored Trevor nor hesitated to classify him. With virtual unanimity, they have labeled him a comic writer, differing only in their terms of reference, which vary from "black comedy" to "comedy of humor" to "pathetic" or "compassionate" comedy. As a satirist, he is most frequently compared with Evelyn Waugh, although Muriel Spark, Angus Wilson, Kingsley Amis, and Ivy Compton-Burnett are also mentioned. Additional points of comparison could readily be suggested: Trevor's ear for humorously banal small talk is reminiscent of Pinter; what has been referred to as "the incredulous, stuffy exactitude … the fustily elegant grammar" of his language recalls Beckett; his ruthless undeviating pursuit of a grubby, shabby verisimilitude evokes the work not only of Graham Greene but of such contemporaries as Edna O'Brien, John Updike, and David...
(The entire section is 5301 words.)
SOURCE: "William Trevor's Stories of Trouble," in Contemporary Irish Writing, edited by James D. Brophy and Raymond J. Porter, Iona College Press, 1983, pp. 95-114.
[In the essay below, Rhodes examines five of Trevor's short stories concerning the Irish troubles and finds that they share similar characters and themes.]
William Trevor was born Trevor Cox in Mitchelstown, County Cork, in 1928, spent his boyhood in provincial Ireland, and was educated at St. Columba's and Trinity College, Dublin. Since 1958—and mostly since 1964—he has been the author of nine novels, five collections of short stories, and a number of radio and television dramas as well as plays for the stage. A member of the Irish Academy of Letters and the recipient of an honorary C.B.E., an unusual distinction for a non-British writer—although he has lived in Devon for a number of years—he has garnered several literary awards, including the Hawthornden Prize, the Royal Society of Literature Award, the Allied Irish Banks Prize for Literature, and the Whitbread Prize for Fiction. Brian Cleeve's 1967 Dictionary of Irish Writers observes that his works "have won Trevor a great critical reputation as well as popular success in America, Britain, and Europe"; and an August 1981 interview by Elgy Gillespie in The Irish Times notes that "These days he is a very famous writer indeed…."
In addition to the...
(The entire section is 9065 words.)
SOURCE: "Short Satisfactions," in The New York Review of Books, Vol. XXXVII, No. 8, May 17, 1990, pp. 38-9.
[In the following review Towers argues that while some of the stories in Family Sins are skillfully told, the collection does not measure up to Trevor's earlier work.]
Readers of William Trevor's earlier story collections, six in all, will find in Family Sins, as before, that the Irish settings—mucky farms, shabby genteel boarding houses, schools, convents, hotel barrooms where more than a few drinks are taken—are coolly but sympathetically observed. So are his characters—foolish, blustering, guilty, touching in their various predicaments.
In "The Third Party," Boland, who runs a small-town bakery, meets Lairdman, who is in the timber business, in the bar of Buswell's Hotel in Dublin. Boland recognizes him as someone who had attended the same school and remembers that Lairdman had once had his head held down in a lavatory while his hair was scrubbed with a lavatory brush. But they have met for a reason that can only be humiliating to Boland: his wife Annabella and Lairdman have fallen in love, and Lairdman wants Boland to relinquish Annabella and, if possible, to give her a divorce. Boland, for whom the situation is no surprise, more or less agrees, but as he tosses back drink after drink of John Jameson's (while Lairdman sticks to lemonade, which he is too...
(The entire section is 908 words.)
SOURCE: "Saints of the Ascendancy: William Trevor's Big-House Novels," in Ancestral Voices: The Big House in Anglo-Irish Literature, edited by Otto Rauchbauer, Lilliput Press, 1992, pp. 257-72.
[In the following essay, Larsen explores shared themes in Trevor's two novels Fools of Fortune and The Silence in the Garden.]
With the spatial awareness of a sometime sculptor, William Trevor has from the start shaped the physical environment in his fictional worlds as the tangible expression of intangible human concerns. In his earlier writings, hotels and boarding houses acquire distinctive symbolic significance as the favored arenas for petty power struggles among petty predators: dingy interiors reflect dingy lives. Trevor's penchant for black humor is particularly at home in houses for the homeless, where lonely paralyzed souls act out illusory relationships and nurture grotesque fixations. In the course of his preoccupation with marital relationships, Trevor has gradually been led from the tragicomic space of boarding-house affairs to the more sombre symbolic space informing his two major Big-House novels: Fools of Fortune (1983) and The Silence in the Garden (1988). Always fascinated by the frigid intricacies of a passionless marriage. Trevor here exposes the relationship of Irish domestic life to that peculiar species of Irish erotic fervor known as fanatic class violence: indeed, his...
(The entire section is 8170 words.)
SOURCE: "'They Were as Good as We Were': The Stories of William Trevor," in The New Criterion, Vol. 11, No. 6, February, 1993, pp. 10-17.
[In the following review Tillinghast examines Trevor's treatment of Irish culture in The Collected Stories.]
American readers of William Trevor's fiction may find themselves at something of a loss to decide precisely what nationality or ethnic identity to assign to this acknowledged master of the short story. The usual epithet for Trevor is Anglo-Irish, which, particularly for readers unfamiliar with Ireland, roughly places him, because he was born and raised in Ireland, went to school there, attended Trinity, College, Dublin—and because a quarter of the eighty-odd pieces in his Collected Stones are set in Ireland or are peopled by Irish characters living abroad, usually in England. He himself has for many years lived and written in Devon.
The term "Anglo-Irish" usually either embraces the members and descendants of the Protestant Ascendancy like Yeats, Synge, and Lady Gregory—prime movers in the Irish Literary Revival; or it brings to mind the fiction written by that wonderful team of cousins who called themselves Somerville and Ross, authors of the "Irish R. M." stories, whose masterpiece was the novel The Real Charlotte. A somewhat imprecise Celtic mythologizing tendency is evoked in the one case; decrepit country houses, hunt...
(The entire section is 5597 words.)
SOURCE: "A Lifetime of Tales from the Land of Broken Hearts," in New York Times Book Review, February 28, 1993, pp. 1, 25-7.
[In the following review of The Collected Stories, Price argues that Trevor's short story writing is consistently strong but that his novels are better.]
The voices of extraordinary writers like William Trevor are almost as quickly recognizable as those of great singers. Any lover of song will know a Pavarotti, a Leontyne Price, in an opening phrase—often in a single note. The genuinely sizable writers of fiction announce their presence almost as early. Some, like Conrad or Hemingway, speak in timbres distinctive enough to declare their markers in a single sentence. More often the novelist or short-story writer quietly names himself or herself, not by actual words or syntax but by an almost immediate revelation of what might be called his primal scene.
Even the voices of writers as wide-gauged as Tolstoy or Proust are grounded in a single scene, most often a lingering sight from childhood or early youth. And that scene is almost always one that a seasoned reader may well suspect lies near the start of a given writer's reason for writing—the physical moment in which a single enormous question rose before a watchful child and fueled the lifelong search for an answer.
In Tolstoy, it's the terrible moment in a bright country house when a...
(The entire section is 3152 words.)
SOURCE: "Irish Drift," in New Statesman and Society, Vol. 6, No. 267, August 27, 1993, pp. 40-1.
[In the review below, Craig praises Excursions in the Real World as an insightful social commentary, but argues that it is not reveal enough about Trevor.]
The real world as opposed to the world of fiction, that is; these enjoyable essays by William Trevor provide a series of glimpses into the novelist's past. He was born in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, in 1928, a Protestant in a Catholic culture, and without even the eclat that ownership of a "big house" might have conferred. His father was a bank clerk, and his childhood peripatetic: after Mitchelstown came Youghal and Skibbereen, and that was only the start.
The family curtains, he notes, "were altered to fit windows" all over the place—windows, moreover, looking out on a not entirely hospitable vista. De Valera's Ireland didn't provide much sense of community for its non-Catholic inhabitants, whom it treated without animosity but without a great deal of comprehension. These small-town southern Protestants never found themselves completely assimilated. Trevor, as a writer, may have been lucky in this respect, and in his family's constant moves. Both accorded him an outsider's perspective, allowing his powerful gift for observation to flourish.
The essays in this book (snippets, really) don't by any means lay bare the...
(The entire section is 578 words.)
SOURCE: "Kilneagh and Challacombe: William Trevor's Two Nations," in Eire-Ireland, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3, Fall, 1993, pp. 114-29.
[In the following essay, Hildebidle contrasts Fools of Fortune to "Matilda's England" as he discusses Trevor's views on Ireland and England.]
William Trevor has baldly asserted that "There is no such thing today as an Anglo-Irish novelist," which will, among other things, come as a great shock to Molly Keane. Of the supposedly nonexistent species, Trevor himself is an apparently unequivocal example. And the question arises: can one be an Anglo-Irish writer and not, sooner or later, address the peculiar embrace which so painfully joins Britain and Ireland? A reading of The Stories of William Trevor (1983) suggests that Trevor—born in County Cork, educated at Trinity College, but long resident in Dorset, a member of the Irish Academy of Letters and also a commander, Order of the British Empire—has tried for some years to resist the perhaps too automatic questions of nationality and Irish revolutionary politics. Indeed, he has insisted that although "I always call myself an Irish Writer,… the struggle in Ireland, and the sorrow, is a very good backdrop for a fiction writer, but I don't think, certainly not for me, that it is any sort of inspiration." As I will argue shortly, I think Trevor's resistance to national labels is more than an accident of biography. But...
(The entire section is 6180 words.)
SOURCE: "Belonging Nowhere, Seeing Everywhere: William Trevor and the Art of Distance," in The Hollins Critic, Vol. XXX, No. 4, October, 1993, pp. 1-11.
[In the following essay, Core provides an overview of Trevor's work, discussing recurring themes and Trevor's critical reception.]
As a writer one doesn't belong anywhere. Fiction writers, I think, are even more outside the pale. Because society and people are our meat, one doesn't really belong in the midst of society. The great challenge in writing is always to find the universal in the local, the parochial. And to do that, one needs distance.
—William Trevor (1993)
No one has had a closer vision, or a hand at once more ironic and more tender, for the individual figure. He sees it with all its minutest signs and tricks—all its heredity of idiosyncrasies, all its particulars of weakness and strength, of ugliness and beauty, of oddity and charm; and yet it is of his essence that he sees it in the general flood of life, steeped in its relations and contacts, struggling or submerged.
—Henry James, "Turgenev" (1897)
At the age of sixty-five William Trevor has written some twenty books of fiction that for range of...
(The entire section is 5039 words.)
SOURCE: "De-colleenizing Ireland: William Trevor's Family Sins," in Notes on Modern Irish Literature, Vol. 5, 1993, pp. 28-33.
[In the essay below, Fitzgerald-Hoyt analyzes "Kathleen's Field" and "Events at Drimaghleen" to support of her argument that Trevor breaks typical stereotypes of Irish women.]
The identification of Ireland with female icons—Hibernia, Erin, the old woman, the colleen—has for centuries been a potent and pernicious tendency. Curiously, these stereotypes historically have been embraced by Irish and English alike: the metaphor of Ireland as oppressed woman or occasionally as militant standard-bearer fueled Irish nationalist posters and political cartoons. Conversely, the image of weeping, pliant Hibernia was juxtaposed with the simian-appearing Fenian to indicate to English Victorian audiences the difference between good (i.e., tractable) Irish and bad (i.e., rebellious) ones.
As the diverse women in the 1988 documentary Mother Ireland point out, whether the image be of the poor old woman with her captive four green fields, the sorrowful Erin awaiting rescue from English oppression, the defiant Hibernia urging rebellion, or the sweet colleen beckoning the romantic tourist, such reductive images are false and unfair, bearing little resemblance to real Irish women. As Professor Lorna Reynolds has observed,
(The entire section is 1947 words.)
SOURCE: "Introduction," in William Trevor, Twayne, 1993, pp. 1-8.
[In the following excerpt, Morrison discusses Trevor's Irish nationality and recurring themes within his works.]
From some perspectives William Trevor might seem to be a British author: he lives in Devon, on the southwest coast of England; his publishers are two important British firms, Penguin and the Bodley Head; he has been awarded an honorary CBE by Queen Elizabeth II for his valuable services to literature. His work usually occupies a foot or two of shelf space in major bookshops throughout the United Kingdom. And his speech is accented by an urbane mix of various regions of Britain. Even so, William Trevor remains an Irish author—Irish by birth and by owned identity. That simple fact is essential to any full appreciation of his fiction.
In a 1976 interview with Jack White on Irish television (RTE), Trevor stated that Irish history is "the only academic subject I've ever been the least interested in" and described himself as a young man being "very, very nationalistic, intensely Irish." Going on to consider the transition from his early work as a sculptor (in his teens and twenties), deliberately using Irish motifs, to his early work as an author (in his thirties), wherein Irish elements are not immediately apparent, Trevor speculated that he "must have used something up": contrary, he says, to standard advice...
(The entire section is 3067 words.)
SOURCE: "Preface," in William Trevor: A Study of the Short Fiction, Twayne, 1993, pp. xi-xviii.
[In the following excerpt from her Preface, Paulson argues that Trevor is one of the finest modern short story writers and that he is not appreciated adequately in the United States.]
My sense of tragedy probably comes from childhood—the source, I think, of both tragedy and comedy. The struggle in Ireland—and the sorrow—is a good backdrop for a fiction writer, but it is not for me any sort of inspiration…. What seems to nudge me is something that exists between two people, or three, and if their particular happiness or distress exists for some political reason, then the political reason comes into it—but the relationship between the people comes first.
William Trevor's reputation as a major modern writer is well-established in Europe but not in America. No one has yet focused attention on his short-story masterpieces—lost, as they are, in an overwhelming amount of attention paid his numerous fine novels. This Irish storyteller and ex-sculptor of nearly 17 years considers his short stories his most important art, and most critics see the short story form as best suited to Trevor's genius.
Trevor's short stories deserve much more critical attention than they have so far received. His short-story masterpieces belong on the...
(The entire section is 2210 words.)
SOURCE: "A Thunder of Hooves in the Drawing Room," in The Hudson Review, Vol. 47, No. 4, Winter, 1995, pp. 655-60.
[In the following review, Krist argues that if readers give Excursions in the Real World a careful reading, they will learn a great deal about the author.]
Any rich and active writing life creates by-products—reviews, essays, travel articles, profiles, and other occasional pieces—that accumulate in the odd corners of a writer's opus until they take on substantial heft. If the writer is good enough, these pieces, while perhaps not originally intended to appear between hard covers, may eventually be gathered into a collection and published. If the writer is better than good enough, the collection may even represent a significant literary achievement, the whole cohering despite the varied nature of the parts.
In his latest book, Excursions in the Real World, William Trevor (certainly a writer who can safely be described as "better than good enough") has achieved this kind of organic-seeming miscellany, though one with a difference. Trevor has taken pieces written at various times and for various occasions in his life, supplemented them with new work, and fashioned them into a memoir. The result is a curious hybrid, a memoir not so much of the writer himself or of his milieu, but rather of the various bits of life and art that have somehow left a lasting...
(The entire section is 2530 words.)
SOURCE: "Never Did Spider More Hungrily Wait," in New York Times Book Review, January 8, 1995, pp. 1, 22.
[In the following review of Felicia's Journey, McGrath praises Trevor's ability to create memorable characters and a satisfying resolution to a dramatic story.]
William Trevor is an Irishman who lives in England and writes often about the English. He is a moral realist who possesses a deliciously dry wit, a nice sense of the macabre and a warm sympathy for the flawed and suffering characters he creates with such fine psychological precision. There is a conviction implicit in all his work that people divide into predators and prey, that the human condition is marked by secrecy, shame, deceit, blindness and cruelty, and that evil not only exists but also can be understood, and can even be vanquished by unpredictable eruptions of grace.
Human sexuality, with all its vagaries, is one of Mr. Trevor's preoccupations, as is the victimization of the weak. In his new novel, Felicia's Journey, which won the 1994 Sunday Express Book of the Year Award in Britain, he plays a deceptively simple variation on these themes. In the process he creates a subtle, plausible and infinitely pathetic portrait of a monster.
Felicia's Journey is about an unmarried Irish girl, adrift and friendless in the industrial English Midlands. Felicia has crossed the Irish Sea to...
(The entire section is 1237 words.)
SOURCE: "An Improbable Monster," in National Review, Vol. XLVII, No. 4, March 6, 1995, pp. 67-8.
[In the following review, Bowman argues that despite Trevor's romantic depiction of the homeless, Felicia's Journey is well written.]
In Britain, William Trevor's 13th novel and 21st book of fiction won the Sunday Express "Book of the Year" award and the Whitbread Prize. Now published in the U.S., Felicia's Journey should be taken as stating a most persuasive case on behalf of its 67-year-old Irish author, who has long lived in England but continues to write about both his native and his adoptive countries, as one of the two or three best living writers of fiction in English. If you haven't read him yet, you should read him now.
The Felicia of the tale is an Irish girl of 18 who lives with her father and three brothers. She shares a room with and looks after a centenarian great-grandmother widowed in the Easter rising of 1916. Unemployed and not remarkably bright or pretty, she is seduced by a young man called Johnny Lysaght who soon after goes off to England without leaving an address. Her Irish patriot father thinks he has joined the British army, but she believes his story that he works in a lawnmower factory in the Midlands. Learning she is pregnant, she leaves home to seek him there without telling anyone. Mr. Hilditch, the fat, middle-aged bachelor who is the...
(The entire section is 1345 words.)
SOURCE: "A Most Improbable Beauty," in Commonweal, Vol. CXXII. No. 10, May 19, 1995, pp. 31-2.
[In the following review, Maitland faults the conclusion of Felicia's Journey, but still finds the work powerful and engaging.]
William Trevor is an eminent British writer, claimed—very properly—by the British literary establishment; winner of many of the most prestigious British literary awards. But importantly, Trevor is not British, but Irish—he was born in County Cork in 1928, brought up in provincial Ireland, and educated at Trinity College, Dublin. He is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters. He is a very Irish writer.
I simplify—there are, of course, many kinds of Irish writers. Ireland has produced some of the finest English prose writings and it would be ridiculous to try and claim that they all shared some profound Celtic singleness of style or intention. Nonetheless there is a strain in contemporary British writing which can fairly be called "Irish" and Trevor belongs in that tradition. It is above all a strain of an intense, lyrical emotion—a determination to make the reader feel; be moved by mundanity, by careful concentration on the little details of daily life.
Trevor is the most wonderful writer: the experience of actually being in the act of reading Felicia's Journey is extraordinary. "Page-turning" usually applies to plot...
(The entire section is 1135 words.)
SOURCE: "The Casualties of Deception," in New York Times Book Review, October 20, 1996, p. 15.
[In the following review, Lesser considers the concepts of truth and self-knowledge in After Rain.]
The great novels draw you in entirely, it seems, so that while you are reading them you forget you ever had another life. But the great short stories, in my experience, keep you balanced in midair, suspended somewhere between the world you normally inhabit and the world briefly illuminated by the author. You see them both at once and you feel them both at once: the emotions generated in you by the story carry over instantly and applicably to the life outside the book. This is why the best short stories can afford to be inconclusive. You, the reader, complete them by joining them back to your life—a life that, because it too is inconclusive, enables you to recognize the truth of the fictional pattern.
Everyone will have his own list of the best short stories. Mine includes most of Chekhov, one or two by James Joyce, a dozen or more from D. H. Lawrence and—in this same vein—a healthy selection from William Trevor. This Irishborn, English-domiciled writer, who is also an excellent novelist, gave us his Collected Stories a few years back. Now, as if to assure us that the well is far from dry, he offers a luminously disturbing new collection, After Rain.
(The entire section is 1382 words.)
SOURCE: "Wonderment and Serenity" in Irish Literary Supplement, Vol. 16, No. 1, Spring, 1997, p. 4.
[In the following review, Fitzgerald-Hoyt agues that Trevor achieves a coherency in the twelve stories about revelations contained in the collection After Rain.]
In the title story of William Trevor's stunning new collection, After Rain, a young woman who has traveled to Italy to come to terms with a failed love affair as well as a troubled family past reflects upon a painting of the Annunciation in the church of Santa Fabiola:
The Virgin looks alarmed, right hand arresting her visitor's advance. Beyond—background to the encounter—there are gracious arches, a balustrade and then the sky and hills. There is a soundlessness about the picture, the silence of a mystery: no words are spoken in this captured moment, what's said between the two has already been spoken.
The scene is echoed on the book's dust jacket: a detail from a fifteenth-century Annunciation by Fra Bartolommeo and Mariotto Albertinelli focuses upon the angel's serious face and upraised, faintly minatory finger; the Virgin's hand seems to attempt to ward him off, to reject his message. Behind these poised figures stretches an Italian landscape of subdued beauty, the watery sunlight unable to illuminate the suppressed drama of the clustered buildings and distant...
(The entire section is 893 words.)
Beards, Richard D. A Review of Fools of Fortune and The Stories of William Trevor. World Literature Today 58, No. 3 (Summer 1984): 416-17.
Praises Trevor's skill as a story teller.
Bonaccorso, Richard. "Not Noticing History: Two Tales By William Trevor." Connecticut Review XVIII, No. 1 (Spring 1996): 21-7.
Considers the role of history in Trevor's short stories "Beyond the Pale" and "The News from Ireland."
Coad, David. A Review of Felicia's Journey. World Literature Today 69, No. 3 (Summer 1995): 585.
Praises the style and structure of Felicia's Journey.
Doherty, Francis. "William Trevor's 'A Meeting in Middle Age' and Romantic Irony." Journal of the Short Story in English, 16 (Spring 1997): 19-28.
Compares Trevor's short story "A Meeting in Middle Age" with James Joyce's story "A Painful Case," arguing that while Joyce presents tragedy, Trevor offers comedy.
Haughey, Jim. "Joyce and Trevor's Dubliners: The Legacy of Colonialism." Studies in Short Fiction 32, No. 3 (Summer 1995): 355-65.
Argues that although Trevor and James Joyce wrote during...
(The entire section is 277 words.)