It’s very sad to think these are the very last William Trevor short stories ever. Except I still have so many of his earlier books to read as well as the short stories he wrote after 1993 (I have a copy of his HUGE Collected Stories from 1993. It took me nearly two years to read and savour all the short stories it contained. I cannot imagine how long it will take me to get through Vol 2 of his Selected Stories published in 2010.)
The ten stories in this collection may not be the finest examples of Trevor’s abilities, but there was enough here to remind me why I love his writing so much.
Human emotion, introspection, deception, betrayal, loneliness, loss, melancholy and courage were just some of the words I jotted down as I read these stories. Most of his characters were marginalised or living life on the sidelines. They were often vulnerable and confused.
Many of the stories also felt unresolved, vague and unsatisfying rather than complete and replete. I wasn’t as deeply moved by these stories as I remember being by the ones in the 1993 Collected Stories and I missed the ah-ha moment or the reader reward at the end.
Yet some of the phrases shone out brightly with an authenticity of emotion and a sharp reality –
Between childhood and the death there was a life that hadn’t been worth living.
She knew she was living in the past, that the past would always be there, around her, that she was part of it herself.
It was only after reading Trevor’s obit, that I realised that several of his stories have been turned into movies or TV shows. I must hunt them down.
I also found an article in The New Yorker 2016, called William Trevor’s Quiet Explosions that described perfectly the way he had with characters and what it was I found to be missing at times from his last ten stories.
Trevor’s characters do not like to reveal themselves, and what is left unsaid holds as much weight as what is expressed. He is, above all, an author of human consciousness, and many of his stories end as a character becomes aware of the sacrifice he has made in order to shoulder guilt and shame, and to make way for the possibility of hope. It is in these moments of revelation that the most ordinary life takes on a kind of grandeur.
I enjoyed spending time in Trevor’s world again, but if you’ve never read any of his work before, then I suggest you start with his earlier work, fall in love with what he does, then come back to his final stories to say your fond farewell.
William Trevor: 24 May 1928 – 20 November 2016