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Note:  William Trevor was a three-time WINNER of the Whitbread (now Costa) Prize.
“Calamity shapes the story…and is its reason for being.”

coverThis old-fashioned saga of eighty years in a family’s life, from the Partition of Ireland in 1921 to the present, differs from other such novels in that it is very short, a mere 228 pages, packed with intimate character portrayals and enough heartache to fill a book three times its size. Like many other authors who excel at short story writing, Trevor compresses images and scenes, and his well honed ability to make a few words do the work of dozens allows him to create a book which is simultaneously intensely personal and broad in its time horizon.

The Everard Gault family, Protestant estate owners in the south of Ireland, does not want to join the exodus of other Protestant families leaving Ireland for England in 1921. When three young men sneak up to their house with gasoline one night, intent on burning them out, Capt. Gault, in an000d320d-800  action reminiscent of the precipitating event of a Greek tragedy, fires a warning shot, accidentally wounding one of the young men and setting in motion a series of actions and reactions which ultimately affect the lives of nearly a dozen other people over the course of eighty years.

His nine-year-old daughter Lucy runs away into the hills. Gault and his wife, finding evidence which “proves” that she has drowned instead, leave for Europe in despair. A seriously injured and almost starving Lucy is eventually found, but her parents are not, leaving her to be brought up in the abandoned house by two loving servants. A child who blames herself entirely for her heartsick parents’ departure, Lucy is unable to accept love or forgiveness until she can atone for her childish mistake of running away.

When the lost Lucy is found, she is left to be brought up in the abandoned country house where she had lived by two loving servants.

When the lost Lucy is found, she is left to be brought up in the abandoned country house where she had lived by two loving servants.

In the hands of a lesser writer, the calamities, the “almost contacts” between Lucy and her parents, the coincidences, and the unremitting self-sacrifice of Lucy, even in the face of true love, might lead one to consider this just another melodrama. In the hands of Trevor, however, the narrative is developed so carefully, the mood is sustained so effectively, and the details are so well selected that the reader is quickly caught up in the story and its suspense, and willingly follows along, even when the developing action seems to defy common sense. Trevor makes the “willing suspension of disbelief” a real pleasure here.

Also by Trevor:  CHEATING AT CANASTA      and     LAST STORIES

Photos.  The author’s photo appears on https://www.gettyimages.co.uk/

When the lost Lucy is found, she is brought up in her family’s abandoned country house by two devoted servants.  https://i.pinimg.com/

Photos.  The author’s photo is from https://www.gettyimages.co.uk

An abandoned old country house in Ireland, probably similar to the one in which Lucy lived with two devoted servants after he parents had left for Europe, thinking she was dead.  https://i.pinimg.com/

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