Love and Summer by William Trevor: “Subtle, skilful and moving”

This is my review of Love and Summer by William Trevor.

Like some other reviewers, I read this in a single sitting and it is the first William Trevor novel I have read. Far from being “old-fashioned”, it was true to life in rural Ireland in the mid C20, as far as I can judge. I liked the realism of it: the focus on the small routines of daily living and the constraints of small-town life. Yet, those of us who live in a very different world may still be able to relate to the nostalgia, the regrets and compromises which in different ways form part of most people’s existence. I also admired the smooth development of the plot towards a sad but convincing finale. I disagree with those who found the book confusing. The juxtaposition of characters’ thoughts, and the way a person might think one thing while saying something else, formed an effective way of conveying the subtlety of human relationships. Through being understated, the emotions in the book were infinitely more powerful. Many possible tragic endings were implied, but the one chosen was right – possibly predictable, but the manner in which it unfolded was not. The characters were all developed as complex people, with shifting attitudes and different relationships between them.

Minor criticisms are that the last chapter was perhaps a little “fey” and some of the demented old Orpen Wren’s monologues did “go on a bit”, although this may be justifiable in the light of the denouement.

If the test of a book is whether it moves you to see the world a little differently, this passes. A moving and superbly controlled piece of writing, on a par with Toibin’s “Brooklyn”, I would have been happy to see this win a prize.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 Stars

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