William Trevor has long been hailed as one of the greatest living writers of short fiction. These nineteen stories--selected by Trevor himself from The Collected Stories and After Rain--capture the nuances of rural and middle-class life in the Ireland he knows so well. Here are its people, their lives driven by love, faith, and duty, surviving in a culture that blends tradition with transformation. In spare and eloquent prose Trevor's stories engage and provoke us as only the best fiction can.
When a William Trevor story comes saddled with the title "The Paradise Lounge" or "The Ballroom of Romance," readers can be fairly certain there's a heavy dose of irony involved. Acclaimed as one of the finest English-language writers living today, Trevor specializes in lives crippled by low expectations. In Ireland, selected from his previous volumes, Collected Stories and After Rain, he assembles a cast of assorted dreamers, loners, and hard-luck cases and then chronicles their disappointments with a compassionate but profoundly unsentimental eye. "The Paradise Lounge" is a rundown hotel bar where Trevor juxtaposes two adulterous loves, from two different generations; one affair has been consummated, the other not, but each is bitterly envious of the other. In "The Piano Tuner's Wives," a blind man's new wife becomes jealous of her predecessor. Instead of describing the world around him as his first wife did, Belle lies to her husband, who resigns himself to the situation: "Belle could not be blamed for making her claim, and claims could not be made without damage or destruction." Other stories find the specter of the Troubles lurking in the background, as in "Beyond the Pale" or "Lost Ground," in which Irish violence assumes the nasty inevitability of fate: "Milton's death was the way things were, the way things had to be: that was their single consolation." Throughout, the writing is simple, luminous, and characteristically lovely. Like Chekhov, another master of understatement, Trevor can paint an entire world with a single stroke of his brush. Trevor's characters are willing to settle for very little, and they seldom even get that. His readers, however, get everything they could possibly ask for.