Like Trevor’s other fiction, The Boarding-House is a work not only of character but also of characters. William Trevor has populated his novel with the pathetic and the looney. Each of the main figures harbors a secret desire: Major Eele frequents strip-tease clubs, especially those employing black dancers; Miss Clerricot desires to have a man make an indecent pass at her; Tome Obd has been courting a white woman who befriended him twelve years before. The death of Mr. Bird, watched over by Nurse Clock, precipitates an unveiling of the various personalities who have been living within the orderly and protected environment of his boarding-house.
Major Eele, of somewhat dubious rank and position, spends his days attending what he calls “art” films, mostly of the African ballet type, and his evenings sitting before the television set in the communal lounge of the boarding-house berating Venables or making racist remarks at Mr. Obd, the Nigerian. The Major is of the old school: He is obtuse and blustering, possessing an uncanny ability to say the wrong thing at the wrong time and to be unaware that he has done so. He at first mistakes Mrs. Le Tor for what he describes as a “professional” but later goes out with her and confesses his blunder, only to have her retaliate by getting him drunk and embarrassing him at the boarding-house. Like his former wife, Mrs. Le Tor manipulates the Major and shows him to be a blundering incompetent,...
(The entire section is 593 words.)