William Trevor – One of My Favorite Fiction Writers

 

William Trevor

Born:  May 24, 1928        Died:  November 20, 2016

 

I first read William Trevor back in 1977. I started with one of his short story collections, ‘The Day We Got Drunk on Cake’ I believe it was. As that title implies, these were lively yet subtle sociable stories about men and women getting together or breaking up or just hanging around side by side. Immediately Trevor became one of my favorites, and I devoured his work in subsequent years. There were the short story collections including ‘The Ballroom of Romance’, ‘Angels at the Ritz’, ‘Lovers of Their Time’, and ‘Beyond the Pale’. Finally I got the courage to try one of his novels, ‘Elizabeth Alone’, and found that he excelled in that form also.

Trevor, in his writing, is comfortable telling the stories of both men and women. He captures the joy and pain in individual lives in a short number of pages. Here is Wuilliam Trevor on being a writer:

By the end, you should be inside your character, actually operating from within somebody else, and knowing him pretty well, as that person knows himself or herself. You’re sort of a predator, an invader of people.”

Although William Trevor was born in Ireland as a Protestant, he set many of his early stories in England where he worked for many years.

I have continued to read William Trevor for a long time, decades. I have come to find that over the years his writing changed. His early stories are usually lively, happy, full of incident, sociable, and frequently take place in England. However beginning with the 1980s I found his work to become more sad, more sparse, more serious, more rural, and more likely to take place in Ireland. Whereas he wrote ‘The Ballroom of Romance’ in 1972 and he wrote ‘Death in Summer’ in 1998, these titles are indicative of the changes in his approach to fiction.

I’m very interested in the sadness of fate”. – William Trevor

I actually prefer the early William Trevor to the later William Trevor. I found this sad sparseness creeping into his work which used to be so vibrant and alive. The later William Trevor is still very good, but it is not at all like the early William Trevor.

If you have only read the later William Trevor, I strongly recommend that you pick up one of his early short story collections like ‘The Day We Got Drunk on Cake’ or ‘The Ballroom of Romance’ or ‘Angels on the Ritz’ or ‘Lovers of Their Time’, and if you can’t stand short stories then read the novel ‘Elizabeth Alone’. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised.

I get melancholy if I don’t write. I need the company of people who don’t exist.” – William Trevor

You really must read either early or later William Trevor.

 

 

10 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks for the hints about what to read, Tony. Trevor is getting quite a lot of blog love at the moment so I’ll keep an eye out for his books!

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    • Hi kaggsy,
      Yes, William Trevor is getting a lot of blog love, but I haven’t seen anyone else take my angle yet, that his early work is in some ways superior to his later work.

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  2. So sad to think that there will never be any more…

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  3. I’ve been enjoying some of Trevor’s early novels lately, particularly The Boarding-House and The Old Boys. Funnily enough, I found another of his books, Two Lives, in one of the local charity shops the other day, a fortuitous find. Definitely a writer I’m keen to explore further.

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    • Hi Jacqui,
      Ultimately I did go back and read those two early novels too. I have not read ‘Two Lives’ however. While many were still discovering Trevor, I slowed down on him somewhat.

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  4. I read his first three novels in March last year and they were absolutely delightful but very dark. I hadn’t expected that going on the later work I’ve read.

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    • Hi Kim,
      His novels are darker than his short stories. How could story collections titled ‘The Ballroom of Romance’ or ‘Lovers of their Time’ or ‘The Day We Got Drunk on Cake’ be dark? Some of the stories are poignant and/or sad, but I wouldn’t call them dark.

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      • I read Tbe Ballroom of Romance last year and I thought it very dark. The idea that a young woman was trapped on a farm with a disabled father, with no hope of escape other than through a poorly made marriage, seemed pretty melancholy and oppressive to me… I’ve not read the others you mention here, but I do like the sound of The Day we got Drunk on Cake 😁

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