"There is no better short story writer in the English-speaking world."—Wall Street Journal
Twelve remarkable stories by the master storyteller William Trevor.
In this collection of twelve dazzling, acutely rendered tales, William Trevor plumbs the depths of the human heart. Here we encounter a blind piano tuner whose wonderful memories of his first wife are cruelly distorted by his second; a woman in a difficult marriage who must choose between her indignant husband and her closest friend; two children, survivors of divorce, who mimic their parents' melodramas; and a heartbroken woman traveling alone in Italy who experiences an epiphany while studying a forgotten artist's Annunciation. Trevor is, in his own words, "a storyteller. My fiction may, now and again, illuminate aspects of the human condition, but I do not consciously set out to do so."
Conscious or not, he touches us in ways that few writers even dare to try. Trevor wrote eighteen novels and novellas, and hundreds of short stories, for which he has won a number of prizes including the Hawthornden Prize, the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award, the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and the David Cohen Literature Prize in recognition of a lifetime's literary achievement. In 2002 he was knighted for his services to literature.
There are few contemporary writers who can match the quiet dignity with which Trevor embues his writing, or his command of the short story form. After last year's remarkable novel, Felicia's Journey, he returns here to more mundane lives. These 12 tales stay well within the bounds of conventional storytelling: there are no fractured narratives or disjointed memories delivered solely for effect. Instead, each of these stories pursues a classic but effective structure: a thinly held equilibrium is disturbed, leading first to a general collapse, then to an emotional plateau in which something vital has changed. In "A Friendship," Francesca, an unhappy housewife, begins an affair with an old acquaintance. The liaison does not lead to the expected dissolution of her marriage but, instead, to a loss of another part of her life. In "The Potato Dealer," an unplanned pregnancy forces a young woman into a marriage of convenience with a middle-aged potato trader. Though never loving, the union achieves a type of friendship; a friendship that is then irrevocably broken by the revelation of secrets. The domestic vein of most of these stories is epitomized by "The Piano Tuner's Wives," in which a second marriage's competition with the first is handled with lyricism and a haunting simplicity, and by "Marrying Damian," in which a couple must struggle to accept their daughter's love affair with their friend, a middle-aged roustabout. Politics, too, finds its way into current lives. In "Lost Ground," the collection's longest tale, the troubles in Northern Ireland provide the impetus for a young boy's tragic death. Each of these stories is rendered with Trevor's characteristic economy. The deft handling of information, as well as the exquisite sense of control, again show Trevor as a brilliant master of his craft.