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Cheating at Canasta: Storiesby William Trevor
Synopses & Reviews
The publication of a new book by William Trevor is a great literary event. Trevo‛s last collection, A Bit on the Side, was named a New York Times Notable Book and hailed as one of the Best Books of the Year by papers from coast to coast, including The Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle. And his earlier collection, After Rain, published in 1996, was named one of the eight best books of the year by The New York Times.
Trevo‛s precise and unflinching insights into the hearts and lives of ordinary people are evidenced once again in this stunning new collection. From a chance encounter between two childhood friends to the memories of a newly widowed man to a family grappling with the sale of their ancestral land, Trevor examines with grace and skill the tenuous bonds of our relationships, the strengths that hold us together, and the truths that threaten to separate us. Subtle yet powerful, his stories linger with the reader long after the words have been put away.
"'The 12 stories of Trevor's latest collection blend an orchestra conductor's feel for subtlety with a monsignor's banishment of moral ambiguity. In 'The Dressmaker's Child,' a 2006 O. Henry Award winner, the future seems predetermined for rural mechanic Cahal, until the preteen daughter of the village dressmaker runs at his car with a stone in her hand. 'Men of Ireland' has the elderly Father Meade being visited by Donal Prunty, 52, a onetime altar boy gone derelict with the years. Father Meade, complicit (or perhaps not) in Prunty's undoing, learns that the erosion of memory extirpates nothing and only compounds one's regrets. The widower Mallory of the title story finds that mortality does not quite do away with the need for role playing and reverse strategies in marriage. And when Mollie of 'At Olivehill' is at last goaded by her sons into selling her deceased husband's woodlands, the earthmovers appear with the alacrity of enemy tanks, altering her internal landscape as well. The book as a whole recalls Joyce's Dubliners in making melancholia a powerful narrative device.' Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)"
"There is terror and beauty in William Trevor's heartbreaking new collection, the fourth since his huge 'Collected Stories' of 1992. In the tradition of Frank O'Connor, Sean O'Faolain and James Joyce, Trevor is a master of delicacy and precision. He inhabits the skin of his lonely characters, mercilessly and compassionately revealing the moral and psychological complexities that lie beneath.... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Although strewn with contemporary references to euros, supermarkets, mobile phones and the diminished role of religion, his world of rural Ireland and modest Dublin and London flats seems old-fashioned, as if left over from another time. The stories have the depth and dignity of Greek tragedies. Many, built around dark incidents — an accident, a murder, a parent's death — explore how people's lives are shaped and bound together by calamity. In the disturbing 'The Dressmaker's Child,' an accident irrevocably changes the life of a young mechanic in a small Irish town. One night, as he drives Spanish tourists to see a supposedly miraculous statue, a child runs in front of his car. The youth and the dead child's mother become linked in a sinister relationship, an inextricable bond that resonates with fatalism. What we are told in 'Bravado' could encapsulate Trevor's recurring theme: 'Nothing (is) unaffected.' In this story, a young Dublin girl feels guilty for silently witnessing her boyfriend's assault of a boy who is found dead the next morning. She cannot flee the shadows of tragedy but remains 'belonging where the thing had happened.' In 'Folie a Deux,' when two childhood friends meet by chance in Paris, the one who forgot a cruel childhood incident realizes that the other, who has been seriously affected by it, is the better person. The past is neither forgotten nor forgiven by an English woman in her 70s, who knows that her husband is having lunch for the last time with his former mistress in 'Old Flame.' Much in these stories remains unsaid and unexplained. In 'The Room,' a man who has been acquitted of an unsolved murder and his wife never speak of whether he did it. And yet, whether he is guilty or not, they cannot escape the shadows of misfortune. An evil chill rushes through 'An Afternoon,' a tale about a lonely adolescent girl and a man she meets on a chat line; the story echoes the author's ominous novel 'Felicia's Journey.' Even the gentle title story, a relief from the violence running through the collection, is suffused with melancholy. Sitting alone in Harry's Bar in Venice, a middle-aged Englishman mourns for his wife, who has Alzheimer's, and hearing an American couple quarreling, muses about what they are wasting. The story culminates in a moment of shame, but Trevor kindly tells us that 'shame isn't bad. ... Nor the humility that is its gift.' It is this compassion and generosity that make the stories so moving and at times uplifting. When a woman leaves her lover in 'A Perfect Relationship,' he is heartbroken and assumes there is another man. But after she returns and explains why she left, he reassures her that she made the right decision. And in 'The Children,' a widowed father realizes that his daughter's honoring of her late mother's memory counts more than his own happiness. Trevor's historical novels 'Fools of Fortune' and 'The Story of Lucy Gault' brilliantly portray the tragedy of people caught in the web of Ireland's history. However, in one tale from this collection, 'At Olivehill,' the historical comparison seems a little strained. A widow, appalled that her sons are turning their farmland into a golf course, shuts herself in the house, outlandishly comparing her suffering with that of her ancestors who lived in the same house during the persecution inflicted by anti-Catholic laws. With his characteristic economy and subtlety, Trevor moves between the physical landscape and the interior world of his characters. In 'Faith,' a Protestant clergyman in a desolate Irish parish has a sudden spiritual crisis. The visual details (he holds a shoe in his hand as he goes to bed; it clatters on the linoleum when it falls) make the clergyman's shock vivid and real. While he suffers in silence, his devout sister stoically bears up under a grave illness. But this bleak story, like many others in the collection, is lifted at the end: As the clergyman looks at his sister's face, finally at peace, he realizes that the mercy of her death is a miracle, 'heaven enough, and more than angels.' For all its darkness, the collection attests to the endurance of the human spirit." Reviewed by Lelia Ruckenstein, a critic and the editor, with James A. O'Malley, of 'Everything Irish: The History, Literature, Art, Music, People and Places of Ireland, from A to Z', Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
(hide most of this review)
A new collection from ?the greatest living writer of short stories in the English language? (The New Yorker)
The publication of a new book by William Trevor is a true literary event. One of our finest chroniclers of the human condition, Trevor?s precise and unflinching insights into the lives of ordinary people are evidenced once again in this stunning collection of twelve stories. Subtle yet powerful, these exquisitely nuanced tales of regret, deception, adultery, aging, and forgiveness are a rare pleasure, and they confirm Trevor?s reputation as a master of the form. From a chance encounter between two childhood friends to memories of a newly widowed man to a family grappling with the sale of ancestral land, Trevor examines with grace and skill the tenuous bonds of our relationships, the strengths that hold us together, and the truths that threaten to separate us.
Trevors precise and unflinching insights into the hearts and lives of ordinary people are evidenced once again in this stunning new collection in which the author examines the tenuous bonds of relationships, the strengths that hold people together, and the truths that threaten to separate them.
About the Author
William Trevor was born in Mitchelstown, County Cork, in 1928, and spent his childhood in provincial Ireland. He attended Trinity College, Dublin. He is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters and a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
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