Monday, September 3, 2007

Fools of Fortune

William Trevor, Fools of Fortune, Penguin (1983). William Trevor is known best as a short story writer, and in this short novel one can see the influence of the shorter form. Large events are compressed into paragraphs, transitions are executed in a sentence or two that would take other writers pages to lay out. The writing is excellent, the story very sad. We are in Troubles territory, here in County Cork, where a Protestant mill owner runs afoul of the Black and Tans when an informer is murdered on his property. Two generations of Englishwomen have married into this Irish family, and some around them understand that this is one root of inevitable tragedy. After the killings of his father and two sisters, Willie grows up while his mother slides into alcoholic resentment. After her suicide he gives up his own future in favor of vengeance, in turn maiming the lives of his true love and their daughter. Resentment, vengeance and vendetta are the subjects, illustrating the costs of endless English depredations of the Irish. In the middle of this very dark novel there is a pricelessly funny interlude of classic boys' school shenanigans, one of Trevor's stories dropped in to relieve the weary reader. Highly recommended, and a great introduction to Trevor, his style and his range can be appreciated here.

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