9 thoughts on “Additional Stories by William Trevor


    “; she always came in February.”

    February, today, I note, too. Not only in Florence, then. She always came, full stop? The word ‘nymphomaniac’ is bandied about, after all! The man in this story is almost sexually harassed by a classy woman, but a woman who was not afraid to seek the affairs she needed, pretending she had met him before, but we gradually learn about the man’s backstory, too, in addition to his writing tourist guidebooks of cities like Florence, where there is a dark side as well as a light, judging by the local newspapers. Which of these two strangers is the angel, which the virgin, I wonder. Looking at all the Annunciations in Uffizi can hardly help, I guess, in deciding. A treasure of a missing person story that will linger long in the Trevorine memory. I wonder if in fact they had met before…


    “‘This is the new treatment,’ he said, taking from the blue baize cover on the table the minute hand of a grandfather clock and inserting its point beneath one of my eyelids.”

    This is where Trevor meets Bowen’s Inherited Clock. Proust, too. THE perfect story, surely, as the sickly narrator with a hinted-at finite childhood before dying, a sort of Death in Venice, except it’s regularly San Pietro, and the older man ostensibly and equally regularly fancies his mother, not him. Amid the lazy swimming and the boy’s odd excursions. The man goes regularly, though, it is said, to visit his ‘mad wife’ ensconced in a nearby town. And the boy writes to his father, subject to later enforced censorship for truth’s economy. The boy is still narrating at the end of this story, and so we retain hope in his respect, with him still trying to sketch the perfumeless smoke trees… yes, the perfect story if there ever is one. Sad, but accepting of us as readers. Keeping the hope going.


    “Nobody knew the name of the man with long arms.”

    With the cement company said to be coming to this area of Ireland – the area with this wayside ballroom – he might not have to carry so many heavy stones? So many heavy stories? Bridie, thirty something, goes to the ballroom – pink outside, blue in – every week some miles on her tyre-precarious bike leaving her one-legged dad at home with his Wild West novel. Ireland is the wild west for me, from here in the England of Wolverhampton, not that I know Wolverhampton very well. The ballroom allows no alcohol and only decent songs performed by three regular men, one of whom, the drummer, Bridie has a yen for, I think, but does he for her? A lot of them have their responsibilities with oldsters back home … in this Church undercurrented area. Bridie was once with the nuns? Some bachelors from the hills, coming to the ballroom, are bit more feisty with their sneaky drinking and more physical flirting… and we gradually get to know some of the women, older and younger, plain and pretty, the plain ones waiting outside the Gents to catch their man coming out. Tonight Bridie has some sort of epiphany. Will she ever come back here to dance and eat crisps and lemonade? Test her tyres or shrugging off or accepting kisses…? Disappointed past, disappointed future. But happy enough without knowing why? But what about the man with long arms? And the Optrex and Bridie’s tears? This story, meanwhile, somehow managed for the first time to get under my skin, made me feel it is a shame I am a loner – and humanity, however frail, is worth getting to know more.


    “She’d had a dream a week ago, a particularly vivid dream in which the Prime Minister had stated on television that the Germans had been invited to invade England since England couldn’t manage to look after herself any more.”

    And there was a ‘polish factory’ down the road from where the old woman lived. Judging by the references in this story, this takes place and was probably written in the 1960s, and the awful children in it grew up to vote for Brexit in the second decade of the 21st century. This is the story of a then 87 year old woman who has her kitchen invaded by a ‘hideous yellow’, as she is persuaded to allow children, two of whom have sex in her bed, to redecorate her house as a community work therapy for them. You need to help those from broken homes, she is persuaded. And she is so scared of being considered as senile, she sells out to what is needed of her. With probably death following on fast. A sad and shocking story. One that should have stuck in the communal mind but has now probably vanished, bar this review of it today pointing to its existence. (William Trevor died in November 2016.)


    A generally funny account of a hotel in Galway that changed hands before summer regulars – a headmaster and his wife – arrived for the umpteenth time to see that the manager had died and his son had halved the size of all the rooms with partitions. And other disimprovements. And on the other side of the partition is the headmaster’s once favourite head boy who happens to be on honeymoon with his new wife! Imagine the carry on!
    The two wives get together, while the men go fishing…
    With a final ‘dying fall’ of acceptance that seems to typify something or other about them all.


    “…she wondered where waiters go between meals.”

    There is so much pregnant in this story, expect pregnancy itself. Women have love affairs. And waiters in posh restaurants sometimes looked then like Fred Astaire.
    A father spends his time cleaning his glasses meticulously, his daughter, having abandoned her own shallow love affair, now living with this her father, as his companion. His wife – her mother – now dead – was his companion, too. Their long term holidays in Venice now replicated with his daughter, finding out things about her father like his lusting after the prettier of the foreign tourists. Except it was not really lust, never lust with such people, just mannered needy encounters, just a means to extend his slightly predatory behaviour as a male in a male world, and an aesthetic sense of the pretty woman. Disappointment all round, except Venice itself is depicted very prettily and undisappointingly here. But what of his little lies and his cheapskating over cups of coffee in fashionable areas of Venice, the odd vaporetto trip and, even if unmentioned here, another death like Dirk’s, I wonder? His daughter might spread her wings again, if so, and make good her mistake. Have an affair with someone like Fred Astaire?

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