Synopses & Reviews
Hailed as "probably the greatest living writer of short stories in the English language" by The New Yorker
and "an extraordinarily mellifluous writer, seemingly incapable of composing an ungraceful sentence" by The New York Times Book Review
, William Trevor is one of our most elegaic chroniclers of loss.
Set in a provincial Irish town against the backdrop of the Second World War, Nights at the Alexandra is a masterpiece of short fiction. Tracing the reminiscences of a fifty-eight-year-old Irish cinema owner named Harry, the story recounts the years during Harry's adolescence when he forges an unlikely friendship with an ÈmigrÈ couple recently arrived in his small town. Gently imperious yet strikingly beautiful, Frau Messinger, a young British woman married to a much older German, introduces a measure of color into Harry's otherwise black-and-white existence.
Disappointed by his dull family and his stifling boarding school, Harry soaks up Frau Messinger's stories of her youth and indulges her numerous flights of fancy. When Mr. Messinger announces his plans to build the town's first cinema and asks Harry to work its ticket window, Harry for the first time begins to imagine a life of possibility rather than privation. But the young man's newfound sense of himself comes not without its price, as William Trevor masterfully limns the border between innocence and experience, creating a subtle portrait of an adolescent moment that has the power to shape an entire lifetime.
In this tender story of a provincial Irish town in the 1940s, a fifty-eight year old cinema owner looks back on the time in his childhood when a mysterious couple moved to town to escape the war.
Harry was fifteen when the aging Herr Messinger and his young and striking wife took up residence at Cloverhill. In impoverished, wartime Ireland, Harry's familym -- poor and Protestant, doubly disadvantaged -- looked askance on the Messingers, but when Frau Messinger picks Harry out of a crowd to run an errand for her, he instantly falls under her spell.
Harry's journeys to Cloverhill, his conversations with Frau Messinger, light up his otherwise dull and dreary life. Her husband announces plans to build a cimena for her, and finds Harry a job there, giving poor Harry the opportunity to escape a destiny toiling in his father's lumberyard. Some 40 years later, Harry finds himself in possession of the crumbling theater, his potent memories of the Messengers enough to keep him warm.
About the Author
William Trevor was born in Ireland in 1928. He is the author, most recently, of Felicia's Journey and Death in Summer. He lives in England.