Fate and Nostalgia in Rural Cork

This is my review of The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor.

This book has a compelling opening with vivid descriptions of the landscape and rural life on the coast in 1920s Cork – we see the sharp contrasts between the Catholic poor and the local Protestant gentry, who are beginning to suffer attacks from disaffected youths. Much of this is seen through the eyes of the eight-year-old Lucy, and we can appreciate her anguish over her parents' decision to leave the house for the safety of England.

As seems to be a recurring theme for William Trevor, the story is all about the way chance events, and understandable but misguided actions, can wreak longterm damage – often of a subtle variety – in the lives of not only individuals but also those who have contact with them.

Ultimately, the novel succeeds in bringing the main characters, and the reader, into acceptance of fate, even the ability to see some positive outcomes of misfortune, including integrity in the face of adversity.

However, like some other readers, I found the pace of much of the book too slow, although I know this is intentional, since the details of daily life, exploration of minute thoughts and evocation of a former simple way of life are what really interest the author. I thought he had "made his point" by the middle, although some further "loose ends" are tied up in the final chapters.

I also agree that some key aspects of the plot are implausible – but perhaps this does not matter too much.

Although I admire Trevor's writing, the sense of some sentences escaped me, which was frustrating, since his greatness lies in the articulate flow and subtle insight of his prose.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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