William Trevor ‘Love and Summer’ Review
A beautiful story of ordinary life and love with extraordinary depth. Author William Trevor invited me into the pages so I could gently and thoughtfully read my way through the summer months in an Irish village named Rathmoye and learn about those who lived there in varying degrees of peace, comfort, toil and hardship. So different from today’s way of living, except our emotions never change, human nature is what it is.
I read this novel for ‘A Year With William Trevor’ Reading Challenge (info below). I could see the countryside, the characters. William Trevor captures the very essence of humanity with ease. His style of writing is deceiving, he makes it look simple but every sentence is meaningful.
Gradually rural mid-century characters show the reader their world, from joy to sorrow, their hidden thoughts amid the daily grind. Making do ‘just because’ the majority of things are hard to come by.
There are the not-so-hidden thoughts from people in the village about the visiting stranger from Castledrummond, Florian Kilderry, and local lass Ellie Dillahan who are the two main characters on a collision course. Among others, we have Miss Connulty with secret desires, wearing mother’s jewellery, wondering if she is jealous of Ellie. There is advice from Sister Ambrose, and old Orpen Wren who wanders about with his hopeful memories and tragic past.
FOUNDLING QUOTE: Ellie “We were always there. The nuns pretended our birthdays, they gave us our names. They knew no more about us than we did ourselves. No, it wasn’t horrible, I didn’t hate it.”
Everyone and everything has a part to play; woven through the story is a decaying estate; dogs, sheep and Ellie delivering farm fresh eggs on a bicycle; sewing a summer dress on the kitchen table. Amid the endless toil of farm life, Ellie’s husband battles his own demons after losing his first wife and child. Most of all, religion and the Irish nuns who cared for and raised Ellie from a baby, the lessons they taught her never forgotten.
‘But she saw Florian…’
Ellie watches him, she is captivated. He stirs her in strange and mysterious ways, slowly drawing her onto forbidden ground. Florian is both accessible and distant. They come from different and difficult backgrounds, they both have the vestiges of abandonment. Not getting too close, searching for something, they don’t really know what that something is—Ellie is smitten but she also has a strong conscience.
Florian Kilderry starts off photographing a funeral with his old Leica camera but later feels that photography would fail him like everything else. We know that he has other plans but he cannot get the lovely Ellie out of his thoughts as he prepares to sell the family estate.
They pass notes in a niche in a stone wall, go walking, talking. In between times, Florian is literally burning everything from inside his family home, it seemed such a waste to me but his memories are bitter-sweet. A charming flashback has Florian and cousin Isabella reading some of his short stories written by hand in an old field journal years before. I wondered if they were really William Trevor’s when he was young?
The ending is powerful and actually crept up on me. It is three-pronged and at first I wondered if I’d interpreted it correctly. Snappy vignettes of speech and thought are used to heighten the denouement. Also a tantalising question is left hanging in the air. Great stuff!
Conclusion: I finished this book and wanted to meet the characters, sit and chat with them in the sunshine. To ask questions and maybe visit the village pub; walk through the fields, splash across streams, eat a farmhouse meal. So much of this tale is real and true but mostly vanished from the universal landscape. Domesticity, societal rules and etiquette, that time immemorial quality of hard, tedious tasks being done by hand, without grumbling, because there was no other way.
For better or worse, close-knit farming communities are changing and moving on from villages like Rathmoye in many ways except for emotions, our deep desire for love and tenderness and a partner to walk beside us.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
‘A YEAR WITH WILLIAM TREVOR’
A Note from the Creators
William Trevor (1928-2016) was an Irish writer who left behind an amazing legacy—dozens of novels, novellas, short stories and plays—for us to enjoy. In 2023, on the occasion of the 95th anniversary of his birth, what better way to celebrate his work than by spending a year reading it?
That’s why I (Kim) have joined forces with Cathy from 746 Books to spend ‘A Year with William Trevor’. Between the two of us, we think we can cover a good chunk of his writing over the course of 12 months—and we’d love you to join in!
We have come up with a proposed reading schedule and we’ll be posting our reviews in the first week of every month between January and December 2023. #williamtrevor2023
Biography William Trevor
Ireland (1928 – 2016)
William Trevor was born in County Cork in 1928 and spent his childhood in various provincial Irish towns. He went to Trinity College, Dublin and then to England in 1953. In 1977 William Trevor received an honorary CBE in recognition of his services to literature, and in 1998 he was awarded the prestigious David Cohen British Literature Prize for a lifetime’s achievement in writing. He wrote novels, plays, essays and short stories, appeared in anthologies and won many literary awards.
A Standard of Behaviour (1958)
The Old Boys (1964)
The Boarding-House (1965)
The Love Department (1966)
Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neill’s Hotel (1969)
Miss Gomez and the Brethren (1971)
Last Lunch of the Season (1973)
Elizabeth Alone (1973)
The Children of Dynmouth (1976)
Old School Ties (1976)
Other People’s Worlds (1980)
Fools of Fortune (1983)
Nights at the Alexandra (1987)
The Silence in the Garden (1988)
Reading Turgenev (1991)
Juliet’s Story (1991)
Felicia’s Journey (1994)
Death in Summer (1998)
The Hill Bachelors (2000)
The Story of Lucy Gault (2002)
My House in Umbria (2003)
A Bit on the Side (2004)
The Dressmaker’s Child (2005)
Cheating at Canasta (2007)
Love and Summer (2009)
Selected Stories (2010)
The Mark-2 Wife (2011)
Last Stories (2018)
Postscript: At the time of writing this book review, I did not know that ‘Love and Summer’ was the last NOVEL William Trevor wrote. (My review posted on St Valentine’s Day)
Photography: My book-styling image was hijacked by JoJo who insisted that I use it in my ‘Love and Summer’ review. Apparently all other William Trevor novels had flown off the shelves, so I borrowed a large print edition from my local library. It has an odd front and back cover design as though someone has scribbled postcard graffiti to match an element in the story. Happy reading!
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