Monday, July 10, 2006

William Trevor's
The Collected Stories

This 1280-page compilation contain tales from Trevor's seven highly acclaimed short-story collections which tell of life in rural Ireland, as well as four that have never appeared in paperback form in America.

One reviewer sums his works up perfectly: No one weaves a tale as fine as William Trevor. His ability to place the reader into the hearts and souls of his characters is nothing short of remarkable. His stories do not focus on plot but rather on human emotion. They center on ordinary circumstances with extraordinary consequences. From the young schoolgirl with a crush on her teacher, to the betrayed wife, to the obese lonely man longing for love, Trevor covers a wide variety of people who are besieged with despair and striving for purpose.

I didn't read these in any particular order, and it took me a long time to make my way through these 85 stories, but it was definitely worth the time I spent with them. Trevor's prose is simple and clear, yet the detail and variety of characters and plots are brilliantly captured .

Most of these stories deal with Irish and English characters, and many revolve around the realities or possibilities of extramarital affairs. "In Isfahan," one of Trevor's best stories, a married middle-aged man carries on an unintended affair with a young woman he meets while in Iran; in "Lovers of Their Time," another excellent story, a married man carries on a long-term affair with a shop girl by meeting her in a hotel's second-floor public bathroom. Trevor is also quite adept of presenting the romantic yearnings of women. In "The Ballroom of Romance," a country girl's dreams and consequences are highlighted in her trips to the local dance hall; in "Afternoon Dancing," a middle-aged married woman dallies with the idea of an affair with her dance partner after the death of her close friend. Like Chekhov, to whom Trevor is often compared, this writer also has an admirable sense of comedy. "Mulvhill's Memorial" finds an unlikely pornographic set-up within an office; "The Trinity" has a couple booking a vacation to Venice and ending up in Switzerland. Accidents spiral out of control in "The Penthouse Apartment," and in "A Complicated Nature," a man is forced to help his upstairs neighbor when her suitor unexpectedly dies. Another one of the best stories of this collection is "Broken Homes," where an elderly woman suffers the indignities of having her kitchen painted by a team of indifferent youths. Other first-rate stories include "The Smoke Trees of San Pietro," where a boy's sickness propels his mother into an affair, and "Death in Jerusalem" where a mother dies while on vacation.

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