... by William Trevor
I used to read William Trevor a lot as a teenager – he provided a bit of light relief between Lawrence, Hardy, James, Austen, Hawthorne and others. As an adult, I kind of forgot about him, so, I was a bit surprised to see this book on the shelves in my local Waterstones.
Having read it, I did remember what it was that I always liked about Trevor when I read his books regularly: it's the way he puts you at the heart of the story from the very first instance.
‘On a June evening some years after the middle of the last centruy Mrs Eileen Connulty passed through the town of Rathmoye….to the church of the Most Holy Redeemer. Her night was spent there.’
So you know instantly the time, the place and that Mrs Connulty was a woman of some repute even though she is obviously dead. This gentle tale floats on to the next day and the funeral for which most of the town turn out, including Ellie Dillahan, a much younger second wife of a local farmer.
On that same morning, Florian Kilderry cycles into town with his camera and takes photographs of the funeral and he is noticed by Ellie. He is also noticed by other townspeople who do not approve of him taking photos of the funeral – for them it is simply not the done thing! Florian and Ellie meet again a few days later and strike up a seemingly innocent conversation and the story goes on from there.
Interlaced with the increasing interest that Florian and Ellie have in each other are the stories of the other people of the town. Orpen Wren, a once archivist and librarian who has a form of dementia but whom all the town know and tolerate. Farmer Dillahan and what happened to his first marriage is another carefully woven thread of intrigue. Mrs Connulty and her two adult children also have a history to be uncovered. As these stories are gradually revealed you learn that not all is sweetness and light in this rural community. Secrets are revealed, assumptions are made and acted upon, confessions are made and confronted. And when Florian eventually tells Ellie that he is leaving, she finds she has a choice to make.
This is a very gentle story with an unexpected ending that takes you on a surprising journey. If you want a nice easy to read story for the holidays, then this is the book for you. But be prepared, you might cry! I did.
William Trevor (May 24th, 1928 - November 20th, 2016), was regarded as one of the elder statesmen of the Irish literary world.