They are saved by a perception that even if they fail, something good may emerge from the mess they have made. In "Death of a Professor", the wife of an ageing Oxford don is unable to break the news that his obituary has been mischievously published in the morning papers. Her attempt to shield him from the hoax leads to further humiliation among his colleagues. Forgiven, she realises she cannot even tell her husband that she loves him for his wisdom: Not knowing everything, for they knew less than they imagined.
His wisdom is almost indefinable, what a roadworker might have, a cinema usher or a clergyman or a child. In another story, a child actor hopes that her part in a film will bring her estranged parents together again. She is playing a paedophile's victim, the ramifications of which are never explained to her. Told "we're into compassion here", she must act in such a way that the audience "will feel the pity thing" for her molester.
She becomes increasingly frightened of the man playing the role, and when drama becomes reality keeping quiet seems the only way to go on. Another secret condemns a young Irish labourer in London to a lifetime of silence. The confusion of loneliness and a patchy camaraderie of strangers have drawn him into involvement with the IRA; when he finally confronts the implications of what he is doing, he knows his moment of courage can never be shared. Some of Trevor's characters do not recognise the difference their decisions can make. In "Of the Cloth", an aged Donegal rector attends the funeral of his gardener in the local Catholic church.
He is impressed by the apparent confidence of the congregation, comparing it to his own disappearing religion, whose designation, Church of Ireland, "had long ago seemed too imposing a title, ludicrous almost in its claim". That night, when he is visited by the young priest, they find common ground in a shared love for their country and the sense of change that is affecting both their lives. The priest had come to thank the rector for his protection of a parishioner, "and by saying it had found a solace for himself. Small gestures mattered now, and statements in the dark were a way to keep the faith, as the monks had kept it in an Ireland that was different too.
The remote farm is on a boreen, high up in the hills, a place he hasn't been back to in many years. As his brothers and sisters arrive home for the funeral, the question on everyone's mind is - 'What will happen to Ma? Caught between desire and circumstance, Paulie, must choose between marrying his long-time love, Patsy Finnucane, or caring for his widowed mother and resigning himself to the isolated life of a hill bachelor.
He has published nearly 40 novels, short story collections, plays, and collections of non-fiction. View all 5 comments. Jul 21, Alan rated it it was amazing Shelves: It's sad to think there will be no more stories. Because of space some feel stories should be relentless, single minded in their plots, marching irrevocably to resolution.
However this can lead to stories being too dependent on plotting, twists in the tale and too glib a resolution. Stories like that can be well written, exc re-posting this because the great man has died. Stories like that can be well written, exciting but often can be dismissed after reading because they are too firmly resolved, they are sealed off. These stories you read slowly and they linger in the mind until you re-read and get more from them each time.
To write stories that will stand up to re-reading is difficult, and sometimes calls for an oblique approach. One of the masters of this type of story is William Trevor, and his latest The Hill Bachelors is marvellous. Trevor came to writing relatively late in his 30s and had been a sculptor, or as he says, attempted to be one — he was doing abstract sculptures and found his interest waned — he missed the human touch, people. His stories make up for this — they brim with real, awkward, hard to categorise individuals. They are people with foibles, obsessions, plans and hidden passions.
People who live lonely lives are a favourite — in bedsits, above a club, in hill cottages; the urge for contact makes them blind to dangers, deceits, the predatory, or accept them. The need to communicate is often entangled with the need to conceal and manipulate.
The child abuse is central but is never referred to directly. This makes it all the more powerful because it suggests how such things can slip by unnoticed in real life, also the reader is left with the horrible task of thinking about what might have happened. In this way the reader becomes involved and feels the awfulness of the situation.
For instance she watches adults talk from behind plants, not hearing properly what is being said, mirroring her inability to understand or interpret what is happening to her. She tries to find someone to tell, but no one seems appropriate.
She loves him for his wisdom. Somehow, by following him about on this day, by eavesdropping on what his colleagues say, and watching how his wife reacts, Trevor enables us too to see this wisdom. Trevor never wastes a word, his every detail works hard. He lowered his voice to a whisper. So what I am recommending is to approach your subject from a side angle, or at least not to tell us too much directly. Let your imagery do the work for you, to imply is sometimes better than to tell, because the reader has to do some work, and therefore becomes more involved with the story.
It would be difficult to emulate Trevor, but you can learn from him. The way he captures interest with the humanity of the characters, making stories authentic by use of ordinary, telling detail, eschewing the obvious, are all elements to consider. Re-reading the stories for this essay has been such a pleasure.
I had hoped to quote more but it is difficult to pick moments as the experience of reading the whole piece is what counts, the cumulative effect. All I can suggest is you read these stories of priests and actors, conwomen, labourers and farmers, salesmen and academics and you will be enthralled. View all 6 comments. Trevor is a superb craftsman. I feel like I am reading an old friend, a familiar voice. These stories, like all Trevor, speak truths. He makes me nod my head; makes me smile. Of these stories, in particular I would recommend The Death of a Professor , which tells the story of an obituary of an academic, placed in the papers by an anonymous practical joker.
The reactions of friends, colleagues, a spouse and the 'deceased' are all priceless. Le Visiteur , likewise, will stay with me forever. Every one of these short stories is nothing short of perfection. I've never been a great lover of this genre but William Trevor is a master. Every story is poignant and haunting and I find myself thinking about the people in them all the time.
Each is a snapshot of people's lives and the thread is the way in which life can often trap us, sometimes because we choose a certain path, sometimes through a sense of duty, and sometimes due to circumstances outwith our control. For me, and I think I've Every one of these short stories is nothing short of perfection.
For me, and I think I've said this in previous reviews, Trevor is one of the greatest living writers and this volume of short stories provides ample evidence of that. Dec 08, Paul rated it it was amazing. Incredible shifts in focus from the perspective of one character to another. You begin a story with the unspoken reflections of one character, bound in some kind of intimacy with another.
This collection comes highly recommended. Beautiful writing in William's Trevor's gentle and perceptive style. Wonderful prose, rich characters. Instead we are left with her pain and the complicity of adults. There is also, however, in some few of the stories, and element of the macabre, again familiar territory for Trevor most famously noted in his novel Felicia's Journey.
It's like the intimacy between the characters is not made explicit, never stated, but it's there in their silences. You read the words and the connection is made somewhere in the spaces between the words, and it moves me when I intuitively infer the truth of the relationships.
Oct 16, Antoinette rated it it was amazing. Trevor, born in Cork in , wrote to the best of my knowledge 14 novels and was nominated for the Booker Prize 5 times. Aside from his novels, he was widely regarded as one of the greatest short story writers in contemporary English, and being Irish I thought it was about time I read his work! We are gently placed into their lives, with the scene very quickly and skillfully set in mere sentences at the beginning of each story.
But I think that Trevor is very skilled at giving us all of that information very swiftly so we can get on with the story. Some of my favourites from this collection include the title story: Jun 21, Frank rated it it was amazing Shelves: More than one reviewer has called William Trevor the greatest writer of short fiction in the English-speaking world and I heartily agree. His simple, soft, un-dramatic prose belies a depth of feeling and intensity that few others can match.
Trevor's world is confined to the two islands he has called home, the Britain of his choosing and the Ireland of his birth. The twelve stories here are set in country towns and London suburbs, Munster farms and Ulster villages. It is populated with aged widow More than one reviewer has called William Trevor the greatest writer of short fiction in the English-speaking world and I heartily agree.
It is populated with aged widows and child actors, rare book collectors and lorry drivers, jilted women and brides-to-be; for the most part, simple people dealing with simple problems.
Aisling Foster acclaims Ireland's modern Chekhov, William Trevor, for his latest book The Hill Bachelors. The end of the world had been to hear that life on a farm did not attract Patsy Finucane. These days the bachelors of the hills found it difficult to.
There is also, however, in some few of the stories, and element of the macabre, again familiar territory for Trevor most famously noted in his novel Felicia's Journey. In the open story, "Three People", it is gradually revealed that someone has died; an alibi is provided by a total stranger of limited mental capacity, who twenty-years later is still visiting the house were the tragedy occurred.
In "Against the Odds" a jilted spinster exacts her revenge by conning random men into giving her large sums of money. Less sinister but no less creepy is "Le Visiteur", where a young wife, horribly humiliated by her boorish older husband uses a handsome bachelor as a tool against her spouse. Trevor also has a unique perspective on the religious differences which have plagued Ireland in general and the North in particular, for most of the last century.
Having himself been reared as a Protestant in the Republic, he has a great sympathy for both communities: Many of Trevor's characters, so richly and yet simply drawn, are outsiders. Perhaps this too reflects his own experiences growing up in a minority community in his own country. The eponymous final story of the collection is the most heartrending. Simply put, the youngest son of a medium-sized family inherits the farm of an uncaring father, at first merely because he alone of the siblings has no other demands and can take care of their mother in the place she's lived for decades.
But finally Paulie—like the monk Michael in the earlier story—chooses to follow a calling, the calling of the land. Like the monk, he is destined for a life of poverty and celibacy, and though he knows the fate that his choice has determined, he accepts it as his choice. When her own death came, he other children would return, again all at the same time. Her widowing and the mood of a capricious time were not of consequence, no more than a flicker in the scheme of things that had always been there. Enduring, unchanging, the hills had waited for him, claiming one of their own.
Oct 06, Pauline Ross rated it really liked it Shelves: This is a collection of short stories set either in the author's native Ireland, or else in England, his later home, with one set in France. He is regarded as a master of the short story, and it's true that each is a little masterpiece of prose, with a skillfully drawn set of characters, an intriguing scenario gradually revealed and a little twist at the end. Each one is a perfect vignette of lives at a moment in time. The stories themselves are often full of pathos, with enough subtleties and u This is a collection of short stories set either in the author's native Ireland, or else in England, his later home, with one set in France.
The stories themselves are often full of pathos, with enough subtleties and undercurrents to intrigue. Some are quite hauntingly memorable, and the Irish ones in particularly have a wonderful resonance of time and place. It's not that I disliked these stories, I didn't at all. But a short story is, somehow, a peculiarly artificial form of prose.
The twist at the end is, after all, the whole point, so the story is entirely constructed around it, with the aim being to deceive and then, triumphantly, reveal it.
It's intended to be clever rather than to tell a story, and personally I would rather have had more depth and development and less cleverness. I can't help feeling: It's all too easy to see them as disposable products - read, enjoy in the moment and then throw away. But some of them really deserved a broader canvas.
Readers will have their own views on the nature of the visions of the Virgin Mary, but what exactly was the gift? Was it simply the obvious one, of returning a son to his home? Or did the author intend the more subtle irony of giving back something which had been taken away in the first place? And what would become of the main character after that? And 'The Hill Bachelors' could easily have made a full length novel, or a film. It seems a shame to criticise a short story for being too short, yet several of them felt that way - too much detail crammed in, cluttering up the simplicity of the picture.
And occasionally it felt clunky, as if the author was determined to shoehorn in a particular piece of information, relevant or not. Nevertheless, these are superb examples of the art of the short story, for those who enjoy the genre. Feb 21, Sylvia Tedesco rated it it was amazing. William Trevor is in my top five favorite authors. The Hill Bachelors contains the short story "Of the Cloth" which tells the story about a country area in Ireland.
The Catholic priest visits an elderly rector and they share their memories, feelings of failure and age.
A very special, typical elegiac story with Trevor's sure, light touch. Work like this reveals a perfectly crafted story as one of t William Trevor is in my top five favorite authors. Work like this reveals a perfectly crafted story as one of the true gems of literature. One of the best of an outstanding bunch is "The Mourning," the story of a simple Irish laborer who nearly gets to plant a bomb in London for the IRA, until he thinks better of it; the subtle way he is drawn into thinking he can perform such a desperate act says more about the Troubles than many a full-length novel.
I read both these stories when they appeared in the New Yorker Magazine. When I read them again, they seemed new and even brighter and more full of meaning.