After Rain / William Trevor

Published in 1996, After Rain is a collection of twelve short stories by the Irish author William Trevor. The title story deals with a woman who returns to a hotel in Venice that she visited yearly with her parents as a child. On this trip she was supposed to be accompanied by her boyfriend, but shortly beforehand he breaks off their relationship. It deals with the loneliness she feels revisiting the city alone, memories from past vacations there, and self-examination of what has brought her to this point in her life, a time when she expected to be visiting the city with her own children in tow.

Trevor is an economical writer, delivering in a handful of sentences what other writers struggle to condense into paragraphs. No matter how mundane the life he’s presenting, it is treated with respect and without editorial comment. These twelve stories all vary in theme and place, with a simplicity that belies the difficulty of creating such precise prose.

The story that stood out most to me was “Gilbert’s Mother,” in which a single mother fears that her mentally troubled adult son might be a serial killer. It chills, haunts, and provides no clear answer to whether her trepidation is justified. The longest tale, “Losing Ground,” visits the troubles in Northern Ireland and shows how political beliefs override even love for one’s own family members. “Marrying Damian” depicts a married couple struggling to accept their daughter’s love affair with a much older man, who just happens to be one of their best friends.

Trevor, who died in 2016, won numerous awards for the many novels, short stories, and plays he penned during his lifetime. But it is his short stories for which he will probably be best remembered, and After Rain’s finely crafted examples attest to a master at the peak of his craft.

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