Love And Summer / William Trevor

Even though William Trevor may not be a household name in the United States, he was a highly respected Irish novelist, playwright, and short story writer. Over the course of his lengthy career he won numerous prizes, and was nominated five times for the Booker Prize. I learned about him late in 2016 when The Economist featured his obituary upon his death at age 88. That prompted me to visit the public library where I picked up Love and Summer, the last novel (2009) he wrote over the long course of a prolific career.

It is a haunting story about a shy orphan girl, Ellie, who is married to Dillahan, an older farmer living near the the town of Rathmoye in Ireland during the 1950s. Her husband is kindly, hard working; a man of few words. She is often left alone during the day while he tends to the land and his sheep herd. Dillahan is haunted by the tragic deaths of his first wife and only child a number of years before. Ellie came to the farm following that to work as a servant. However, after some time together, when Dillahan asked her to marry him, she accepted. While she does not truly love her husband, she does respect and care for him.

The story takes place over the course of a summer, opening on the day that Ellie meets Florian Kilderry, a young photographer in the process of selling his deceased parents’ house, with plans to leave Ireland entirely. The chance meeting of these two lost souls begins a summer love affair. Or at least that is how Florian views it, while Ellie dreams it might be something more long lasting. This topic has certainly been written about before, but in Trevor’s capable hands it takes on a fresh life, with several unexpected twists and turns.

William Trevor was noted for creating characters that hooked themselves into the reader’s imagination, and this talent is on full display here. He also captures the slow pace of rural Irish life during this time period, and highlights the importance of neighbors and the Catholic Church in the daily activities in and around Rathmoye. He is able to avoid entirely the cliches and stereotypes often associated with small town life.

Love and Summer is a short work, and I can imagine a good many people being so captivated that they read it in a single sitting. Its prose is precise, eloquent, and captures the splendor of a brief Irish summer. I found the book’s conclusion to be spot on and satisfying. For those readers who enjoy “quiet fiction” that speaks to the heart, this book is one to make note of. William Trevor died peacefully in his sleep during the early hours of 21 November 2016, leaving behind a bibliography that I’ll certainly be exploring further.

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