Tuesday, February 23, 2010

And then there's William Trevor

When it comes to literature out of Ireland, famed and underrated author William Trevor, is more to my liking. I used to read his books all the time until they just struck me as too melancholy. However, with his latest, Love and Summer, I decided to jump back in. How can you resist a title like that? Yes, it's still melancholy but the mood Trevor creates is almost other worldly.
Where Toibin's novel seemed peopled with caricatures, Trevor's introduces three dimensional men and women motivated by understandable longings and desires. Everyone in the little town of Rathmoye has lost someone dear and the longing among these folks for love and connection is palpable.

At the heart of the novel is Ellie Dillahan, a young woman sent directly from the convent to the employ of a morose farmer whose family died in a tragic accident. After several years as employer/employee, the farmer asks Ellie to marry him and, knowing no other life, she agrees and is considered fortunate. It's not until a dashing young photographer rides into the village on his bicycle, showing inordinate interest in Ellie, that she realizes what's been missing from her life - a grand passion. A social neophyte, Ellie misconstrues Florian Kilderry's interest, a temporary flirtation to distract from the feelings of failure he has as he sells his family's home, his legacy. She never understands, and perhaps neither does he, the deep feelings he's always harbored for a cousin who lived with him during happier times.

Meanwhile, the townspeople take note of the chats between Florian and Ellie, rumors begin a groundswell and Ellie finds an anonymous and unlikely supporter in the owner of the local inn, Ms. Connulty, whose own youthful indiscretion in love and the tragic result, make her cheer Ellie's happiness. But can Ellie embrace her passion if it means destroying a man whose kindness and care has sustained her from the orphanage to adulthood?

William Trevor's gentle heart is evident in every page of this spare novel. His love and care for his characters makes us love and care for them too. Can we ask more from a book?

No comments: