Published to coincide with the 90th anniversary of William Trevor’s birth, this book is a reminder of what we lost when he died two years ago. Its 10 stories bring a literary career that lasted more than half a century to a consummate conclusion...“Remember the pianissimo,” a music pupil is advised. Trevor increasingly did. Delicacy of touch was his forte. Variations on his persisting motifs — polite stoicism, life’s injustices, regret at missed opportunities, the need for decency and kindness — are rendered with muted finesse.
A teacher of piano finds that a child pupil has a remarkable talent, only to discover that he is not the innocent he appears to be...
Oblique, reticent, yet deeply affecting, these are stories that don’t give up their secrets on a first reading: Trevor’s admirers will return to them again and again.
...it’s a mark of Trevor’s formidable craft that, taken individually, his stories not only don’t seem formulaic but regularly inspire awe. In Taking Mr Ravenswood, a bank clerk, Rosanne, recalls how a customer – the dapper widower of the title – invited her to a posh dinner and then back home for a drink. What subsequently took place is left hazy, in keeping with Rosanne’s partial understanding, as – in the narrative present – the feckless father of Rosanne’s young daughter badgers her to tap Mr Ravenswood for cash. At first, you read “taking” as a verb – he’s the mark for the couple’s sting – but the word morphs subtly into an adjective the more you infer about Mr Ravenswood’s conduct.
This economy – compressing what a story is centrally about in the very first word of the very first page – is part of the cleverness of a writer who has done as much as anyone to shape our sense of what a short story is and what it should do.
There is no doubt that William Trevor was one of the great writers of short stories. During his best period, he produced a couple of dozen of astonishing force and unique flavour. The two-volume Collected Stories is a joy to read through. Though, in the interests of truthfulness, I can’t pretend that these last stories are all masterpieces, Trevor’s was a long and prolific career, and the quality and variety were sustained for most of it. What his reputation rests on remains formidable.