continued from here: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/21735-2/

Other links: Continued from https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/01/13/collected-stories-william-trevor/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/01/13/later-stories-by-william-trevor/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/02/10/additional-stories-by-william-trevor/ and https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2020/01/04/last-stories-william-trevor/

My continuing reviews will be shown in the comment stream below…

31 thoughts on “*


    “People wove fantasies around the house and its people; to those who were outside it, it touched on fantasy itself.”

    Another Trevor story classic, I am almost reluctant to tell you, as he has had too many classics already in my book! About the resplendent house of Mrs Abercrombie since the 1940s, now 1974. And it reeks of those times, as deliciously as the food cooked in its kitchen. And the white raspberries. And the future ‘rare grasses’ specialists who might have lived in it. An insular community of servants, each of whom has a character we grow to know well. Their emotional quirks, backstories and interactions. The latter sometimes in a bed. When [SPOILER ALERT] Mrs A dies at 61 suddenly, they need to reconcile or even fantasise over their residual stay in such an idyllic heaven of their later life, judging by a solicitor’s letter found in the deceased’s room with her dying wishes, not yet, they think, fully legalised. The later scenes with persuading the doctor to bend some rules are a literary high point, and can not be missed. Nor can be missed his surprising clear-thinking about the virus of untruth the servants have set in train…
    “He’d had a touch of flu but was almost better; Dr Ripley had suggested his getting up in time for lunch. But by lunchtime he was dead,…”
    That was an earlier sentence slipped in disarmingly about Mrs Abercrombie’s husband who died some years ago, with whom she was still in love at the time of her own death when she was still under the care of Dr Ripley… so I think I know better even than the author himself what the truth truly was about Dr Ripley’s competence. Truths to be factored into by his skid marks. (And what about the page of newspaper that once had a beetroot wrapped in it? And the concept of a woman as a paid gardener? And what on earth was that about Bert Fask?)


    “– Connie and her father, while slowly coming to terms with the loss they had suffered, shared the awareness of a ghost that fleetingly demanded no more than to be remembered.”

    Connie is 11 and following the expected death of her beloved mother, she returns to the house with her father, hoping to be “alone together” to methodise the death, but there is a small and quiet and ad hoc wake gathering. Her friend Melissa’s mother is divorced and eventually falls in love with Connie’s father. She being Protestant and he Catholic, and talk naturally ensues following such contravention of the religious mœurs of the time. And Connie resorts to a sullen behaviour, reads books on the roof. A subtle ending, in defence of the memory or even ghost of Connie’s mother, indicates reactions that at least delay the marriage, this being the story’s ending that the author makes even more subtle, even misunderstood! — as I feel he does with a few of his endings, ones that are complexly sermonised. Most of his endings are luminously subtle, however – if not this one. (I enjoyed the nature of Melissa’s brother called Nat, curled up like his name’s homophone.)


    “People remarked on this ceiling and my husband used to explain that metal ceilings had once been very popular,…”

    Imagine you are Mrs Acland in an institution for the mentally frail – during a much earlier English era but one within your own living memory – a Mrs Acland who is writing a long haunting letter about her backstory’s predicaments to a random stranger she has chosen from the telephone directory. And then imagine you are that very stranger, here named Mr Mockler, reading this letter about Mrs Acland’s ghosts, the ghosts that were so real to her, and about that Victor Sylvester tune on an old-fashioned wireless, the equally old-fashioned houses with attics and landings, one house with a fitted bathroom, the live-in housekeeping couple in what used to be servants’ quarters, Mrs Acland’s much older husband who ran a business in ‘aeroplane fasteners’, her earlier brothers and sisters who had died suddenly in an road accident, the particular pieces her family moved around the board in Monopoly games, and now about the various people surrounding her in the institution … and through these narrative layers, imagine you are asking yourself questions about who is and who was and who will be gaslighting whom, and then you wonder whether you yourself are being gaslit, too, as the ghosts seem so utterly real. Finally, imagine you are the reader reading about them, bringing them into existence again.



    This story certainly has a dull or, rather, dulled tone, as if the state of someone being “doo-lally”, as someone calls Mr Arthurs, is here aligned with what I see as toothache, a pain dulled by a disarming or deadpan accuracy of depicting a dislocated journey in this man’s mind, as also triangulated by the overt thoughts of a woman he once briefly lived with, and whom he now stalks. He is obsessive, especially with the era’s greater amount of hard copy tenures like shopping lists and separate telephones in public places instead of anything virtually handheld in our times, times beyond when (and what) this story was written about. About cafes. I remember cafes serving basic foods with waitresses who were usually 70 years old women. Whom he also stalks.
    And then there is his own job, working as a waiter in a hotel, with his agonising again and again about a single moment of what he sees as bad behaviour. No wonder he was demoted to breakfasts. “Doo-lally” is an expression of meaning that is also dulled. It perhaps should be a stronger word…

    “The dullness Arthurs had mentioned in the café possessed him entirely now, an infection it almost felt like, gathering and clinging to him, an unhealthy tepidness about it.”


    “Quite often he said things she didn’t understand.”

    Dermot, married to Norah, Catholic sweethearts in Ireland, middle aged now with growing and grown children, having migrated to London just before the IRA bombing…
    Dermot was slow and methodical in his thoughts, too. More dependent on his religion than Norah was. And their landlord became a family friend particularly at Christmas, when this story takes place. This Christmas they don’t expect him because, last Christmas, Dermot had said something out of turn relating to the bombs, or Norah thought that was the case. Somehow soured the marriage, too, and doubled down on the hindsight mistake of coming to London in the first place. But one thing DOES lead to another. I, an atheist, agree with Dermot. And every story told is about things leading from one thing to another, proximate cause to proximate cause. Unless a reader, or a reviewer like me, puts in some sort of firewall, or breaks one down? Christmas Day would then duly unfold accordingly, I guess…


    “When she’d kissed him her lips hadn’t been moist like his mother’s. They’d been dry as a bone, the touch of them so light he had scarcely felt it.”

    An amazing novelette about Milton, a youth 16 years old, part of a Protestant family in Armagh. His younger brother a “mongol”. His other siblings leading their own lives – yet their Protestantitis gradually grows inflamed in the reader’s mind, from its simple faith to its violent components – in the late 1980s? Just imagine the repercussions when Milton finally admits he had a vision of a woman in the family orchard who called herself St Rosa, a Catholic Saint. This story is so utterly like a lockdown itself, just as Milton is locked down with jigsaws and no sunshine. And the oblique references resonate cruelly and sometimes inspiringly by avoiding the meaning filter in your mind. The outcome is a wrench to its own inevitable outcome’s doppelgänger of justice….a poetry of mindless grappling with different forms of truth, and just as a few examples, viz.:-

    “He liked the champ best when it was fried. You could warm it in the oven or in a saucepan, but it wasn’t the same. He liked crispness in his food – fingers of a soda farl fried, the spicy skin of a milk pudding, fried champ.”

    “Milton had the distinct impression that the woman wasn’t alive.”

    “The picnic was the reward for duty done, faith kept. Bottles appeared. There were sandwiches, chicken legs, sliced beef and ham, potato crisps and tomatoes. The men urinated in twos, against a hedge that never suffered from its annual acidic dousing – this, too, was said to be a sign.”

    “Why should a saint of his Church appear to a Protestant boy in a neighbourhood that was overwhelmingly Catholic, when there were so many Catholics to choose from?”

    “the applause for a performer who balanced a woman on the end of his finger.”

    “As usual, the day was fine; from his bedroom window he could see there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.”

    “She left him a pack of cards, with only the three of diamonds missing,…”

    “Later Milton found the two back legs of an elephant and slipped the piece that contained them into place. He wondered if he would finish the jigsaw or if it would remain on the mildewed baize of the card-table with most of its middle part missing.”

    ‘Yet how would he know about a saint?’ her mother whispered. ‘Where’d he get the name from?’

    “that that was that,”


    1. The Tennis Court

    “Between them, Dick and Betty and Mrs Ashburton had cast a wide net,…”

    … as I do with my reviewing, dreamcatching oddments toward the Gestalt. A German word, that, I believe. Significantly so, in the light of this novella. The intensely time-and-place-evocative start of this very English fiction work, opening in May 1939, and onward, with dire echoes of the Kaiser’s War, and even direr retro-echoes from the imminent War, and old people like Mrs A, with her ‘cunning’ and her green hat-pins and her declining Manor House and her derelict tennis court and all of this, even herself, owned by Lloyd’s Bank. She invites the tenant farmer’s children to help clear the Court and use it to play tennis, her having a soft spot for Matilda (at the plot’s outset, aged 8), this Matilda as the narrator, plus Dick and Betty, slightly older, Dick already feeling grown-up with his Woodbine smoking… Their father getting annoyed with his fountain pen, memories of oil lamps being replaced by electricity, a dream of cows on Matilda’s bedroom wall, her view of Germans as people past and future, Mrs A’s view of Matilda’s as her lost child, but, above all, the eventual tennis party is full of hope as the children grow up and have budding romances as well as a darkly expectant poignancy of a future past looming… And by chance Spotify happened aptly to be playing Edmund Rubbra’s 4th Symphony in my music mix as I read this work today…… hmmmm

    • 2. The Summer-House

      “In Scripture lessons the Reverend Throataway used to explain to us that God was in the weeds and the insects, not just in butterflies and flowers.”

      Each day as the war dragged on, Matilda remembers that each day has its special things about it. Thursday being the most fateful of days, quite often. That tennis party, for example. You can imagine what might have happened, for her, on Thursdays. What physically happened to children when they grew up together, friends and lovers. What happened to most of those grown-to-be men when they went to war, too? Her mother’s assignments with a man (a man said to be too sick to go to war) in the old manor’s summer-house to where her Mum resorted across the fields – and the things that were in there from the earlier tennis party and now from Matilda’s home brought there by her Mum. Then other things, ghosts and enemies of the state, and memories that resonate more with the dark magic of our English past, more even than modern day Poliakoffs continue to dream up such pasts for me. Matilda grapples with a fear and love of God, and His nature. Throataway, as a word if not a Reverend’s name, somehow also seems to summon up Matilda’s sense of the Germans and their different helmets as part of how many see our onset of virus today that will also drag on…

      “I couldn’t help myself: I wanted it to be known that he was faking a disease in his lungs.”

    • 3. The Drawing-room

      “Nothing is like it was.”

      There is a sitting-room in this last third of Matilda’s England, a room where she cannot remember anyone ever sitting! The eponymous drawing-room, though, that is part of once Mrs A’s Manor House, is where Matilda, I feel, draws cruelties out like bad teeth from gums. A strong prophecy of where Poliakoff dramas would later go, as Matilda almost BECOMES Mrs A in the manor that was so important to her past and the two wars’ cruelties. An England ethos that was later to lead to Brexit, when she sees a German actually invited to be in her drawing-room! And it is true that Brexit was voted in exactly when William Trevor died, and Mr A was buried the day before Matilda was born. So many unintended connections, but they all mean something. This whole work is a great piece of literature, possibly the greatest. As she marries someone who somehow taunts her with a Mr and Mrs Stritch nosing around in the Manor House and the Darlings at the beginning of sentences addressed to her … and his other irritations. These are actually FRIGHTENING things to the reader in the context. How is it done? I wish I knew. Perhaps I sound almost as demented as Matilda herself. “…the dancers of the distant past.” But due to what time has done to Matilda, all those different Thursdays, I rather admire her, indeed I feel fond of her. The moods that were passed like measles or other diseases, notwithstanding. Or like forced, unannounced house parties! The sharing of horror. And who made much money out or manufacturing guns during the second world war in his family motor component factory? Matilda’s stepfather did — and he would likely make surgical masks today!

      “It was no longer a room you could be quiet in. Everything seemed garish, the red glitter of the wine bottles, the red candles, dish after dish of different food, the cheeses.”


    “‘Oh, just a – a jape, they say?’ little McMoran mutters, excusing cruelty with a word he has to search for.”

    “, Vanessa again said to herself that she could not possibly commit this cruelty.”

    Again, amazingly perhaps, we have a connection between Trevor stories read in random order, this story inheriting a match for Matilda’s “cruelties”…a story where a Professor due to attend a sherry do with other professors, has been given a premature obituary in the newspaper, squeezed between non-entities. His much younger wife Vanessa, a dumb blonde, tears it out of the newspaper before giving it to her husband. In those days newspapers were always made of paper! But they always had on-line cruelties and fake news in embryo. As did real-time life itself, as we reach poignant levels of sexual or professional jealousy and suspected past students’ hatred or just a plain gratuitous prank … enough to make any man drink! (He visits a pub for the first time in his life!)
    Witty and cutting.

    ‘It’s going too far, don’t you think, this? Why is it that everything must go too far these days?’

    ‘Newspapers have a way, these days, of being careless.’

    “This city, not a human attribute, was what he’d thought of when he thought of beauty, the grey-brown columns and façades, carved figures in their niches, the lamplight coming on in winter.”


    “It walls and ceiling were a sooty white.”

    Another Trevor classic haunting story. His canon is over-generous with such. The tale of the narrator but is it HIS tale? He is helped by the summoning of a young woman after, despite being a Catholic, visiting a Protestant church in the environs near Cork and discovering her grave. The young woman would be 89 today, if still alive. But she lives in this narration, by telling the story herself via the official narrator, a wrongly considered backward boy within a backward community, involving the brilliantly described seediness of a car repair garage run by his father and uncle. Our narrator is the child of all of them, and I think you will find the utter poignancy will haunt you forever should you decide to haunt this story with your own presence. His father and uncle: both vantablack sponges of human spirit… by dint of their caged lightbulb for working in the garage pit. His mother a victim, too. The narrator’s siblings escaped, thankfully, whether they deserved to do so or not. Pretty Kitty, one of the narrator’s sisters, as a child, is fondled by her father, his father, too. Or was it his uncle after all?


    ‘Tell you what, I’ll bring a packet of Three Castles.’

    Lighting the gas fire at the end, Zoë ensures this story is the perfect cross-reference for the Katherine Mansfield story (A Married Man’s Story, here) that I read immediately before reading THIS story in happenstance order.
    Sweetbreads, notwithstanding. And the open endings of all our life stories, to date.
    A story of that numb resonance between husband Charles and wife Zoë, with almost disowned children, now grown up, the couple now in their oldening life, and the parallel relationship of Charles and his old flame Audrey (the ‘handsome’ woman) and Grace (without such grace), two women who lived together, Audrey whose letters Zoe steams opens and reveals before Charles reads them. Until Grace dies…
    Zoë needed gas for the steam, I guess? No, just checked back, it was an electric kettle.

    “He doesn’t wonder what will happen now, since death has altered the pattern of loose ends.”


    Sarah, as a young woman, found employment in 1955 with a lighting fitments firm, working her way up till she was secretary to the boss. An ugly duckling who never grew less plain. Had a chap called George who suddenly lost interest midway in undressing her! A story that is a touching account of a lonely woman. At an office party where the white collar staff mixed with the blue collar workers, one of the latter, a polisher called Sandra Pond, almost propositioned Sarah, and who later wrote to Sarah self-describing herself as a “lesbian”. A sad encounter that became even sadder when they meet again amid stacks of Mother’s Pride in a grocery store. The latter rapprochement of the two of them is most subtle, a plainness about to become beauty, but obviously one can only speculate at that point in reading this story whether, when one reaches its end, it might all have been resolved.
    By the way, one item of lighting lit in my mind at the thought that George earlier in this review, with the act of undressing Sarah, might have had premature ejaculation?!
    Not to mention the Black and White Minstrel Show or a chap named Chumm!

    “‘Excuse me, dear,’ a woman said, poking around Sarah to reach for oxtail soup.”



    A gem, one of those stories that you know will play music in your mind forever. An Upstairs Downstairs of an old house, with many servants, and we follow Brigid whose realm was the contiguous Sculleries, from age 14 till her old age when the traditions of Upstairs Downstairs begin to dwindle, but the characters of the various servants over time are imprinted on our minds, but most of all we shall remember how the piano music played by the eponymous Neapolitan; music Brigid once heard as a member of a gratuitously invited audience of servants Upstairs was imbued throughout life’s poignant gestalt and indeed she has helped us share it, too, as I say, forever, gratuitously. Trevor stories are often imbued as such. Too often thus imbued for a reviewer like me to be able to guard against boredom with his recurring appreciation!



    A whole paragraph quoted just for my friends who are horror fiction genre fans? Well, perhaps, but mainly because this news item of a stranger is central to an epiphany for Attracta, the sixty year old teacher of the small number of Protestant kids whom she teaches in the school room where Attracta herself was once a pupil. An epiphany she naively and impulsively and perhaps half-crazily shares with those kids as a testament to some lesson in truth. A news story of a woman who was raped eight times and who crawled across her own carpet for an overfill of aspirins. A truth lesson stemming from knowledge of the Irish troubles, the competing lethal forces, the competing faiths, the blind loyalties and the blind mistakes. This is paralleled with Attracta’s own girlhood, when competing male forces fought over a need to interfere with her body, and salaciousness was suspected. She does not remember much of the worst of this, as it has been blocked from her mind as well as blocked from this story itself. These are just my inferences. She never gets married, anyway. Another sad and haunting story, where characters’ aspirations were never high, in contrast to the author’s own high and achieved aspirations to adeptly, movingly depict such lack of aspiration amid the seedy abodes and streets of England and, here in this story, of Ireland.

  14. A DAY

    “Mrs Lethwes dreams:[…] Or was it quite a dream, or only something like one?”

    Mrs L dreams real dreams about living people she has never met, including the child her barrenness could not produce. So she adopts these dreams themselves, including those of Elspeth, the mistress of her husband who Mrs L discovered existed inadvertently by a letter that also went astray. Her husband does not know she knows…
    Real people she does not need to dreams about is the gossiping Marietta, her cleaner, and the dour Mr Yatt whose plants Marietta inadvertently digs up!

    Elspeth Is a travelling concert musician…
    “Not Vivaldi now, perhaps a Telemann minuet, run Mrs Lethwes’s thoughts in her garden.”

    Mrs L, meanwhile, “can watch, if the mood takes her, some old black-and-white film on the television, an English one, for she likes those best, pretty girls’ voices from the 1940s, Michael Wilding young again, Ann Todd.”

    Mrs L sort of needs treating thus; she has sneaky drinks and needs adopting to bring off her being real herself! Needs to be carried to bed by her husband? As a drunk – or a child? (She dreams or visualises that Elspeth has set a Tender Trap for her husband by getting pregnant with his child.)


    “…he kept seeing her again, standing up at the meeting and saying that afflicted women have to live somewhere. Like mongol children, she said stammering;”

    A story of the NIMBY spirit, a story many politically incorrect years before that acronym word was invented. A couple (advising another older couple selling a large house in a scenic village to a man called Golkorn who wanted to use the house as a home for female mental patients) are depicted having their better natures impugned by Golkorn so as to exhort them to take battle with the Nimbies in the village. The debate is consuming, and only transcended by a dream of butterflies that seems to be an oblique metaphor for the human race being wiped out (as it threatens to be wiped out today), butterflies equivalent to the rabbits in Women In Love… or in pain.


    “Fourteen years ago Blakely’s wife and daughter had been killed in error, a bomb attached to a car similar in make and colour to the would-be victim’s, the registration number varying by only a single digit. Promptly, he had received an apology, a telephone call of commiserations that sounded genuine. Two wreaths were sent.”

    Two Protestants – each who knows where the other’s foot digs – meet by random chance during the precarious peace following the Troubles, in a small community not far from Belfast. One is Mr Blakely who has his café table shared (in this community where he has always lived as a turkey farmer employing turkey pluckers), shared during the cafe’s busy period with Mrs K from Belfast who has put a pin in map to come here as a break from her business pursuers. Staying, she is, in a purely Trevorish bedsit over a shop. And the two of them sort of have a clumsy rapprochement amid this precarious peace where things can go both ways, just as their relationship can go one of two ways, too. I feel SHE told the author Trevor about her loss of £84,000 in her backstory, I guess, so I do not blame him for effectively lying to us readers about that. She lied about being a widow to Mr B, too. But we are delightfully unclear whether we can trust her, as Mr B remains unclear about that too, indeed unclear, as we all are, about the bait of a cheque he gives her to prove her trustworthiness. Incidentally, I do not need any money paid to me to entice me to read this tantalising story gem. It pays dividends whichever way it goes.

    “‘I know, I know.’ That comment, spoken in a whisper, contrived to make one of the two widowings, contrived to isolate with quiet poignancy a common ground.”


    “…extravagantly awful that Mrs Vansittart’s seedy love life should have been displayed in front of everyone, while Harry washed up the dishes.”

    H is Mrs V’s husband. And in some ex-patriot villa society in Cap Ferrat, where someone has misspelt a new avenue named after Somerset Maugham, one speculates whether H himself will have his name misspelt when they name one after him to honour his dubious song-cycle featuring a Red-Indian child-wife. The rest of the time H helps with the garden and the cooking, and is scolded by Mrs V for putting hot dishes on Louis XIV furniture. Absurdist, satirical, gratuitous story, where the gossiping Bridge Party guests suspect Mrs V of acting the ‘tart’ in her name, following, say, liaisons with a lighthouse keeper et al, but really she is defending H against blackmail after his ostensibly having underage girls in his rooms over the last few years. Whether consummated or not. In fact she herself once took her clothes off for him when she was eleven! Much to the fury of her dentist father.
    Who loves whom and why is still a mystery to me regarding Mrs V and H.
    Humanity is never easily plumbed, I guess. Nor the aberrant intentions of otherwise respectable writers like Trevor.

  18. FAITH

    “Mr Flewett was elderly, which Hester had predicted he would be. He was on his own these days, he said, bringing tea on a tray, with biscuits in a tin.”

    Ordained Bartholomew and his sister Hester are Irish Protestants, and as they grow older quietly, stoically, they may have had emotions inside, falling short of what either might have wanted, amid dwindling church attendances, and prickly, taciturn Hester preceding this fate, when younger, and her not wanting to marry, while her brother was jilted by a ‘Silly’ (according to Hester) called Sally and this Sally then married a man in Jacob’s biscuits, it is perhaps amusing Mr Flewtt wielded a tin of biscuits when Hester took Bartholomew to see a downtrodden church in a backseat community to rescue it and be the parish priest there… so that they could be what their faith determined. Living together at Oscarey.

    “The missionary leaflets by the collection box were smeared and dog-eared, and Bartholomew noticed now that there was bird-lime on curtains that were there instead of a door to the vestry.”

    Strange that Trevor stories have many helpings of scrambled eggs, this one included, and this one is a helping, too, towards a blended stoicism, even (or especially) when she dies at age 60 from a quiet, but morphine-necessary, encroachment of an almost acceptable illness, amid her brother’s separate epiphany that nearly lost him his faith, but not quite. She had been his fate, I guess. It was meant to be.


    “She didn’t like her wrists. They were the thinnest in Class Three,…”

    This is another Trevor trove. A wonderful work about Cecilia who is 13, and who sees her father regularly Downstairs at Fitzgerald’s on the days he has access to her. Amid the establishment’s atmosphere of bookies and betting tips, followed by cinema or an afternoon at the races. Her mother and stepfather live in the house where her father once lived.
    A boy at school one day is seen by Cecilia staring at her, probably not because of her wrists, but about what? He knows both the father and the stepfather. Well, if I tell you what the boy thought, it would spoil your appreciation when you read the story. But just imagine how we are gradually instilled with the naive, yet subtle, thoughts of a 13 year old girl as certain matters begin to dawn on her. Just one step short of a future relationship with a father unfolding, a relationship that she can now no longer define as love or what? Wrists that will need to be stronger than they look? The complex simplicity or simple complexity of life’s constant gamble?


    “But always, instead, there was what there was.”

    The story of this story. A man and a woman and their adultery in office hours. Only steady grown-ups can achieve adultery. Meeting in places in the city, characters they see like a bag lady, a taxi-driver or others in the cafe, co-interpreters of a gnawing disquiet but also a stoical rightness, even if the couple walk away from each other, their love being a love of dignity and that rightness. Strange that Trevor always seems to start off by telling us his characters’ almost exact ages. The married man from Dollis Hill who somehow feels trapped by his mistress’s divorce, although the divorce was done separately for her, not for him. Discrete and discreet. When I leave a Trevor story that I love, I leave it, knowing I shall never read it again, but I know I shall continue loving it, even when its details have escaped, even its plot dissipated. Earrings as dots, and wire gauze, notwithstanding. And Nell the vanishing drinks trolley lady.

    “She wondered what it would feel like, waking up in the night, not knowing immediately what the dread she’d woken to was, searching her sudden consciousness and finding there the empty truth and futile desperation.”

  21. …and there is also a “tea-woman” on a drinks trolley in this next story that comes up by chance. This one called Edith.


    “Given to wearing Harris tweed jackets and looking not unlike an advertisement for the Four Square tobacco he smoked, he travelled every day to the centre of London from the suburb of Purley,…”

    …as I did, too, in exactly the same era! Except there the similarity ends, living with his sister, as he did, and a Scotch terrier called Pasco. And, oh yes, he made porno films to be projected. On the other face of it, he worked for the advertising agency Ygnis and Ygnis. (Yog Sothoth, Egnis?) And there is much Carry On stuff here that I will not bother you with. And a sudden death. And, despite the lively and often well-written satire of the advertising industry and the office ‘politics’ and other bits on the side, this Trevor story would have been better off if left in a locked filing-cabinet to which the key had been lost! And, oh yes, there is a scrambled egg in it, too.


    “The prison is two miles outside the town, a conglomeration of stark grey buildings behind high grey walls, which occasionally I have visited during an epidemic. Ad sum ard labor, a waggish inmate has carved on a sundial…”

    More people’s ages, more pages where we gather things gradually, not all of them sticking in the mind but they linger there nevertheless, only my gestalt real-time reviewing recording things on webpages for my future consultation and triangulation of the plot’s past coordinates. Here, already, it is fading, as I try to assess family friend Damian’s character, his waywardness, his affairs, the foreign places he has visited, the Goya sunstroke he once suffered, and his returning for sporadic visits, with his customary suitcase, to the doctor narrator and this narrator’s wife Claire, and, in time, their now grown- up daughter Joanna, who works at rehabilitation in prisons, a girl who once, when small, said she would marry Damian one day. But does she marry him? Is the now invisible unleaded Doul house Damian’s Mandalay? What effect does the sudden marriage prospects have on the doctor and his wife, this couple’s retirement, with the narrator meeting patients without their diseases, both of them regretting being instrumental in reintroducing their daughter to Damian? Things linger on, things will linger longer, though, by continuing to re-read Trevor stories such as this one; they will linger on, but never forever.

    “Eighty-one, Claire said: he would be eighty-one when Joanna was forty-eight.”


    “History is unfinished in this island; long since it has come to a stop in Surrey.”

    Possibly the most powerful Trove I have found so far in Trevor. Starting off like an Irish joke (one such joke referred to in the text) and the hilarious surreal dreams of the narrator sex-Mistress called Milly, the gestalt of the four Bridge players crossing their own Rubicon or Pale or indeed Bridge between Surrey and Antrim each year to play Bridge at the same hotel. Their four backstories and personalities interconnected, with sexual complicities. And old boy school memories. Until Cynthia, the betrayed wife of one of the men… — such backstories are all contrasted, yes, contrasted with Cynthia (having briefed herself on Irish history and the then current Troubles, with fuses and explosives, that even two sweetheart children grew up INTO) as she meets the trammels of that Irish History head on… mœurs versus mœurs across that Irish Sea Bridge – resulting in madness and tragedy. This is beyond summary. Needs to be read. So much I could quote from it, but I shall remain abstemious and finger-adept with such explosive material. Its absurdities and its ultimate seriousnesses. The disruption of a whole hotel’s pent-up ethos, out-Poliakoffing Poliakoff. The flower-named room-doors instead of numbers, notwithstanding.


    “Since the conventional separation of the sexes on the evening before a wedding did not appeal to Liese, Tony agreed that there should be a party to which both sides of the wedding came instead.”

    I was tantalisingly convinced I had read this story before, either déjà vu or reincarnated memory or what? One side of the wedding group was German, the other English, and we absorb the various subtle or historic tensions that this brings. One family’s business being in gloves also seemed familiar. And the game itself, too, the game at the combined hen and stag party – being the contest in telephoning a complete stranger, who is rung randomly, and keeping them on the line the longest! (The random or synchronous nature of numbers and events — connected with the remembered first meeting of the German woman and the English man due to get married next day — now seems wholly appropriate.) The English man’s phone call during the party game was to a lonely old lady whom he told to climb to her loft to turn off her water-cock because, he said, of an imminent danger of flooding — and then for her to report back to him when she had done it, while he hung on waiting! The suspense of this story is the greatest I have read in Trevor before. And the cringeworthy nature of the English man, and the more empathic nature of the German woman, seem somehow revelatory, as we learn more about human nature in such fiction than we ever do in real life … or in such life’s bigoted expectations. Never now to be forgotten.


    “He drinks too much, he tells himself, and restrains the inclination to have another when the coffee comes. He reads again, indulging the pleasure of being in Paris, in a brasserie where Muzak isn’t playing, at a small corner table, engrossed in a story that’s familiar yet has receded sufficiently to be blurred in places, like something good remembered. He never minds it when the food isn’t up to much; wine matters more, and peace.”

    A major story that should be multi-anthologised, a vintage Trove even outdoing other vintages of a Trevor’s Trove. Wilby in Paris by incredible synchronicity — a synchronicity that only great literature can make seem real, even more unbelievable as beyond those synchronicities I often find BETWEEN items of such literature — meets Anthony in Paris on Wilby’s postage stamp foray there. Anthony, long lost only child, bullyable but strangely never bullied, whom Wilby, also an only child, befriended back in those Irish days of Proustian or Grand Meaulnes memories, where they conspired, at nine years old, to help a beloved dog drown itself on a lilo floating on an Irish sea. Anthony had, a few years afterwards, been assumed dead … till now, outside a ribbon shop in Paris, Anthony now a downbeat restaurant dish washer with a dishcloth…. This brings so much to the mind’s table, some things undefinable, some quite understandable, inadvertently resonating in incredible mutual-synergy with Robert Aickman’s ‘The Same Dog’, or does it? It is perhaps more about “: why aeroplanes flew, how clocks kept time, why spiders spun their webs and how they did it.” And how Anthony the dogsbody stranger is an undrowned dog?


    I remember such hill bachelors in the Ireland of Trevor before in my reviews. But here it is even more a tontine of entropy rather than a tontine of winning something worth winning. Paulie returns to the family farmhouse deep in the hills and ‘the bogs’, for his father’s funeral. A rare meeting with all his siblings.His ageing mother lives there and, despite being the son his father forgot, he inherits his position at the farm, being the only bachelor. Only bachelors can work such farms, as no girl could now countenance such a life. He left a sweetheart behind who refused to marry into any such farm. He takes some local girls to the cinema but even these girls prefer the town life. His mother suggests, for his sake, that she will move away from the farm to live with his sister, and another farmer offers to buy much of the farm. But Paulie stays …. cloyed and trapped. A wilful masochism? Or stoical dress rehearsal for a future’s social distancing or self-isolation? Meant to be. Ever meant to be by Trevor. Or not to be.

    “, everything gone quiet, the way you’d never have believed it.”

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