Even among the best of its kind, William Trevor's Fools of Fortune (1984) stands out as a Big House novel of singular complexity and scope. In this richly allusive work, the story of the house at Kilneagh between 1918 and 1983 is fashioned as a tragic and symbolic distillation of Irish history from the sixteenth century to the present day. But in keeping with Trevor's conviction that the artist must deal with what he calls 'the parochial' in such a way as to 'illuminate the human condition', (1) the novel has a transhistorical, mythic dimension too. The ambitious nature of the novel is signalled in the title, a phrase which links it with Romeo and Juliet (III.i.136). (2) Here, too, the title intimates, is a story of young lovers whose happiness is undone by the violence endemic to the polarized world in which they have the misfortune to be born. Here, too, the tragedy involves the protagonist's surrender to the spirit of hatred and revenge, and an element of malign chance which mocks good intentions and reasonable hopes. Here, too, the harshness of the tragic ending is modified by a consolatory reaffirmation of love and union in the midst of ruin.