"A subtle, surprising, sometimes agonizing tale of young love and passion." - Julie Myerson
"The latest item from William Trevor's venerable suitcase, is a thrilling work of art."—The New York Times Book Review
In spare, exquisite prose, master storyteller William Trevor presents a haunting love story about the choices of the heart, and the passions and frustrations of three lives during one long summer. Ellie is a shy orphan girl from the hill country, married to a man whose life has been blighted by an unspeakable tragedy. She lives a quiet life in the Irish village of Rathmoye, until she meets Florian Kilderry, a young photographer preparing to leave Ireland and his past forever. The chance intersection of these two lost souls sets in motion a poignant love affair that requires Ellie to make an impossible choice.
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|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Date of Birth:May 24, 1928
Place of Birth:Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland
Education:Trinity College, Dublin, 1950
Read an Excerpt
On a June evening some years after the middle of the last century Mrs Eileen Connulty passed through the town of Rathmoye: from Number 4 The Square to Magennis Street, into Hurley Lane, along Irish Street, across Cloughjordan Road to the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer. Her night was spent there.
The life that had come to an end had been one of good works and resolution, with a degree of severity in domestic and family matters. The anticipation of personal contentment, which had long ago influenced Mrs Connulty’s acceptance of the married state and the bearing of two children, had since failed her: she had been disappointed in her husband and in her daughter. As death approached, she had feared she would now be obliged to join her husband and prayed she would not have to. Her daughter she was glad to part from; her son — now in his fiftieth year, her pet since first he lay in her arms as an infant — Mrs Connulty had wept to leave behind.
The blinds of private houses, drawn down as the coffin went by, were released soon after it had passed. Shops that had closed opened again. Men who had uncovered their heads replaced caps or hats, children who had ceased to play in Hurley Lane were no longer constrained. The undertakers descended the steps of the church. Tomorrow’s Mass would bring a bishop; until the very last, Mrs Connulty would be given her due.
People at that time said the family Mrs Connulty had married into owned half of Rathmoye, an impression created by their licensed premises in Magennis Street, their coal yards in St Matthew Street, and Number 4 The Square, a lodging house established by the Connultys in 1903. During the decades that had passed since then there had been the acquisition of other properties in the town; repaired and generally put right, they brought in modest rents that, accumulating, became a sizeable total. But even so it was an exaggeration when people said that the Connultys owned half of Rathmoye.
Compact and ordinary, it was a town in a hollow that had grown up there for no reason that anyone knew or wondered about. Farmers brought in livestock on the first Monday of every month, and borrowed money from one of Rathmoye’s two banks. They had their teeth drawn by the dentist who practised in the Square, from time to time consulted a solicitor there, inspected the agricultural machinery at Des Devlin’s on the Nenagh road, dealt with Heffernan the seed merchant, drank in one of the town’s many public houses. Their wives shopped for groceries from the warehouse shelves of the Cash and Carry, or in McGovern’s if they weren’t economizing; for shoes in Tyler’s; for clothes, curtain material and oilcloth in Corbally’s drapery. There had once been employment at the mill, and at the mill’s electricity plant before the Shannon Scheme came; there was employment now at the creamery and the condensed-milk factory, in builders’ yards, in shops and public houses, at the bottled-water plant. There was a courthouse in the Square, an abandoned railway station at the end of Mill Street. There were two churches and a convent, a Christian Brothers’ school and a technical school. Plans for a swimming-pool were awaiting the acquisition of funds.
Nothing happened in Rathmoye, its people said, but most of them went on living there. It was the young who left — for Dublin or Cork or Limerick, for England, sometimes for America. A lot came back. That nothing happened was an exaggeration too.
The funeral Mass was on the morning of the following day, and when it was over Mrs Connulty’s mourners stood about outside the cemetery gates, declaring that she would never be forgotten in the town and beyond it. The women who had toiled beside her in the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer asserted that she had been an example to them all. They recalled how no task had been too menial for her to undertake, how the hours spent polishing a surfeit of brass or scraping away old candle-grease had never been begrudged. The altar flowers had not once in sixty years gone in need of fresh water; the missionary leaflets were replaced when necessary. Small repairs had been effected on cassocks and surplices and robes. Washing the chancel tiles had been a sacred duty.
While such recollections were shared, and the life that had ended further lauded, a young man in a pale tweed suit that stood out a bit on a warm morning surreptitiously photographed the scene. He had earlier cycled the seven and a half miles from where he lived, and was then held up by the funeral traffic. He had come to photograph the town’s burnt-out cinema, which he had heard about in a similar small town where recently he had photographed the perilous condition of a terrace of houses wrenched from their foundations in a landslip.
Dark-haired and thin, in his early twenties, the young man was a stranger in Rathmoye. A suggestion of stylishness — in his general demeanour, in his jaunty green-and-bluestriped tie — was repudiated by the comfortable bagginess of his suit. His features had a misleading element of seriousness in their natural cast, contributing further to this impression of contradiction. His name was Florian Kilderry.
‘Whose funeral?’ he enquired in the crowd, returning to it from where he had temporarily positioned himself behind a parked car in order to take his photographs. He nodded when he was told, then asked for directions to the ruined cinema. ‘Thanks,’ he said politely, his smile friendly. ‘Thanks,’ he said again, and pushed his bicycle through the throng of mourners.
Neither Mrs Connulty’s son nor her daughter knew that the funeral attendance had been recorded in such a manner, and when they made their way, separately, back to Number 4 The Square they remained ignorant of this unusual development. The crowd began to disperse then, many to gather again in Number 4, others to return to their interrupted morning. The last to go was an old Protestant called Orpen Wren, who believed the coffin that had been interred contained the mortal remains of an elderly kitchenmaid whose death had occurred thirty-four years ago in a household he had known well. The respectful murmur of voices around him dwindled to nothing; cars drove off. Alone where he stood, Orpen Wren remained for a few moments longer before he, too, went on his way.
Cycling out of the town, Ellie wondered who the man who’d been taking photographs was. The way he’d asked about the old picture house you could tell he didn’t know Rathmoye at all, and she’d never seen him on the streets or in a shop. She wondered if he was connected with the Connultys, since it was the Connultys who owned the picture house and since it had been Mrs Connulty’s funeral. She’d never seen photographs taken at a funeral before, and supposed the Connultys could have employed him to do it. Or he was maybe off a newspaper, the Nenagh News or the Nationalist, because sometimes in a paper you’d see a picture of a funeral. If she’d gone back to the house afterwards she could have asked Miss Connulty, but the artificial-insemination man was expected and she’d said she’d be there.
She hurried in case she’d be late, although she had worked it out that she wouldn’t be. She would have liked to go back to the house. She’d have liked to see the inside of it, which she never had, although she’d been supplying Mrs Connulty with eggs for a long time.
It could be the photographs were something the priests wanted, that maybe Father Balfe kept a parish book like she’d once been told by Sister Clare a priest might. Keeping a book would be more like Father Balfe than Father Millane, not that she knew what it would contain. She wondered if she’d be in a photograph herself. When the camera was held up to take a picture she remembered slender, fragile-seeming hands.
The white van was in the yard and Mr Brennock was getting out of it. She said she was sorry, and he said what for? She said she’d make him a cup of tea.
After he had spent only a few minutes at the remains of the cinema, Florian Kilderry broke his journey at a roadside public house called the Dano Mahoney. He had been interrupted at the cinema by a man who had noticed his bicycle and came in to tell him he shouldn’t be there. The man had pointed out that there was a notice and Florian said he hadn’t seen it, although in fact he had. ‘There’s permission needed,’ the man crossly informed him, admitting when he snapped shut the two padlocks securing the place that they shouldn’t have been left open. ‘See Miss O’Keeffe in the coal yards,’ he advised. ‘You’ll get permission if she thinks fit.’ But when Florian asked about the whereabouts of the coal yards he was told they were closed today as a mark of respect. ‘You’ll have noticed a funeral,’ the man said.
In the bar Florian took a glass of wine to a corner and lit a cigarette. He had had a wasted journey, the unexpected funeral his only compensation, and from memory he tried to recall the images of it he had gathered. The mourners had conversed in twos and threes, a priest among them, several nuns. A few, alone, had begun to move away; others had stood awkwardly, as if feeling they should stay longer. The scene had been a familiar one: he had photographed funerals before, had once or twice been asked to desist. Sometimes there was a moment of drama, or a display of uncontrollable grief, but today there had been neither.
On the other hand, what he had been allowed to see of the cinema was promising. Through smashed glass a poster still advertised Idiot’s Delight, the features of Norma Shearer cut about and distorted. He’d been scrutinizing them when the man shouted at him, but he never minded something like that. The Coliseum the cinema had been called, Western Electric sound newly installed.
A smell of frying bacon wafted into the bar, and voices on a radio. Sporting heroes — wrestlers, boxers, jockeys, hurlers — decorated the walls, with greyhounds and steeple-chasers. The publican, a framed newspaper item declared, had been a pugilist himself, had gone five rounds with Jack Doyle, the gloves he’d worn hanging from a shelf behind the bar. ‘Give a rap on the old counter if you’d want a refill,’ he advised when a woman summoned him to the meal she’d cooked. But Florian said the single glass would be enough. He sat for a while longer, finishing a second cigarette, and then carried his empty glass to the bar. A voice called out goodbye and invited him to look in again. He said he would.
Outside, in warm afternoon sunshine, he stood for a few minutes, eyes half closed, his back against one of the entrance-door pillars. Then, riding slowly, he continued his journey. He lived alone. He wasn’t in a hurry.
The day advanced in Rathmoye. Disturbed by death, the town settled again into its many routines. Number 4 The Square was put to rights after nearly a hundred sympathizers had accepted the invitation to funeral refreshment. Trays of cups and saucers were carried down from the vast first-floor sitting-room to the kitchen, scattered glasses gathered up, windows thrown open, ashtrays emptied. By the time the stairs had been hoovered, tea-towels hung up to dry and the daily girl sent home, it was evening.
Alone in the house, as she had not been since the death, Mrs Connulty’s daughter fondled the jewellery that now was hers: strings of lapis and jade, garnet and amber, the sapphire earrings, the turquoise, the pearls, the opals, the half-hoops of diamonds, the ruby engagement ring, the three cameos. There was a rosary too, but it did not properly belong, being of little value compared with the finery.
In her middle age, Miss Connulty was known in Rathmoye no more intimately than that — a formality imposed upon her when, twenty years ago, her mother ceased to address her by either of the saints’ names she had been given at her birth. Unconsciously, her brother had followed this example, and when her father died she was nameless in the house. By now, ‘Miss Connulty’ belonged to her more naturally in the town than the form of address she had once enjoyed there.
Thirty-two pieces she counted, not one of them unfamiliar to her, and she would wear them and wear them often, as her mother had. This reflection came coolly, without emotion. Some of the pieces would suit her, some would not. ‘What are you doing, child?’ her mother had long ago sharply demanded, unexpectedly in this same room, her slippered feet making no sound. A garnet necklace draped her child’s neck, not hooked at the back, the clasp held between finger and thumb. It dropped with a clatter on to the dressing-table, and Mrs Connulty, tall and stoutly made, declared that the Guards must be sent for.
‘Don’t get the Guards! Oh, don’t, don’t!’ Her own cry of alarm came back to Miss Connulty from childhood, fear cold again in her stomach. ‘Go out for a Guard, Kitty,’ her mother called down the stairs to a startled maid, and ordered the necklace to be put away. She went through the pieces to see that they were all there. A Guard was in the hall then, and her mother ordered her to tell him, and when she did he shook his head at her.
Less tall than her mother, and not stout at all, Miss Connulty retained the shadow of a prettiness that had enlivened her as a girl. Grey streaked her hair, darkening its fairness, but few lines aged her features. Even so, she often felt old, and resented this reminder that in reaching middle age and passing through most of it she had missed too much of what she might have had. She returned the jewellery to the top drawer of the dressing-table that had been her mother’s and now was hers. She kept out only the garnet necklace, admiring it against the drab shade of her mourning.
Joseph Paul Connulty was a lanky, weasel-faced man with grey hair brushed straight back and gleaming beneath a regular application of Brylcreme. Spectacles dangled on a tape around his neck, falling on to the dark serge of his suit. Two ballpoint pens were clipped into his outside breast pocket. The emblem of the Pioneer movement was prominent on his left lapel.
At a loss after he had been to the cemetery again in order to linger on his own by the closed grave, he went to the coal yards. The sheds were locked, there was a notice on the office door; sacks that bore his name were stacked upright on a lorry, waiting to be delivered. He felt at home here, had all his life known the mounds of slack, the stables where once there’d been horses, the high gates sheeted with corrugated iron, its red paint worn away in places. In childhood he had played here, but had not been allowed in the public house, which even now — teetotaller that he was — felt alien to him, although he spent most of every day there. His hope had been to become a priest, but the vocation had slipped away from him, lost beneath the weight of his mother’s doubt that he would make a success of the religious life. In the end her doubt became his own.
He locked the high gates behind him when he left and did not hurry on his way to Number 4 The Square. He passed the public house, closed also, and the deadness of the place gave him pleasure, for usually music and a muddle of voices spilt out on to the street. It was quiet, too, in the hall of the house where, being a bachelor, he took his meals and slept, where all his life he had lived.
‘A garden of remembrance has been mentioned to me,’ he passed on to his sister when they met on the first-floor landing.
Although they were more than brother and sister, having been born in the same few minutes, they had never shared a resemblance. In childhood they had been close companions but often now did not communicate with one another for weeks on end, though less through not being on speaking terms than having nothing to say.
‘Her standing in the town,’ Joseph Paul went on, answering his sister’s question about the necessity for a garden of remembrance. ‘Her association with the church. The money she gave, as well as everything.’
He didn’t reveal the other suggestions as to a suitable memorial that had been put to him on his walk through the town, since none of them would have been more acceptable to his sister, and he was in favour of a garden himself. ‘How she was,’ he said instead.
Unlike the coal yards and the public house, Number 4 The Square had undergone a transition that reflected the mores of its two generations as a business place. Originally catering for permanent residents, offering three meals a day, it had become a bed-and-breakfast stop-over for commercial travellers. The present Connultys could remember, though faintly, the bank clerks and shopmen who returned each midday to the dining-room and in the evenings shared the same daily newspaper and sat around the same coal fire. McNamara the road surveyr, Superintendent Fee, Miss Neely the lay teacher at the convent, and others in their time had remained as residents until marriage or professional advancement brought a change in their lives. Each had been allocated a distinctive napkin ring; Miss Neely had her iron pills, McNamara his stout, for which there was a charge. Now only Gohery the metalwork instructor — at present away on his summer holidays — was a permanent lodger at Number 4; but the house’s reputation for food and cleanliness saw to it that a room was rarely vacant. A sign in one of the ground-floor windows set out the overnight terms, and the value offered guaranteed brisk business no matter what the season.
In all this, Joseph Paul foresaw little change, the only one being that his sister would run things on her own. A woman or a girl had always come in to clean and wash up, and could not be dispensed with. Nor would his sister wish to do so.
‘It’s only it was raised with me,’ he said. ‘A garden.’
They had played a game with pieces of coal in the yards, five pieces each, to be kicked around the course they set out: to the sack shed and then to the water barrels, to the slack mounds, over the cobbles to where the carts were, beyond them to the pump and the red half-door, back to the beginning. In the town they had knocked on hall doors and run away. They had opened henhouse latches, releasing hens to chase. They had roamed the streets, their father indulgent, their mother occupied with the running of the house. Minutes younger, Joseph Paul had also been the smaller, but he had never considered that a deprivation.
‘What about the gravestone?’ Miss Connulty picked up a used match, overlooked by the daily girl on one of the landing windowsills. He watched her dropping it into the unlit fire in the big front room, cleverly positioning it so that it wouldn’t show. He said: ‘We’ll go to Hegarty for that.’
‘There’ll be talk about the way she wants it done.’
Their mother had laid it down that she did not wish to have her name added to her husband’s gravestone, preferring to have a grave and gravestone to herself.
‘Her own grave’s her due,’ Joseph Paul said.
‘Who mentioned a garden?’
‘Madge Shea in Feeney’s.’
A garden was what there’d never been at Number 4, and it was this that people remembered their mother often saying. A place for meditation, Joseph Paul went on, a way of giving thanks for a life: that was what people were thinking of too, now that this time had come. Behind the church, between the church and the cemetery, there was space enough for a garden.
‘It’s enough we have the peculiarity of the grave,’ his sister countered. ‘It’s the normal thing for a woman to go to rest beside her husband. It’s the normal thing for a husband and a wife to share a tombstone.’
He didn’t deny that, he didn’t argue. The arrangement about the burial had been agreed with Father Millane and carried out as the last wishes of the dead. In the same way, Hegarty in the stoneyard would be instructed when the moment came. There would be a garden of remembrance because the people of the town wanted it.
‘I heard it there was a man photographing the funeral,’ his sister said.
‘I didn’t see that.’
‘It was remarked upon in the house here. It was wondered did we want photographs.’
‘I didn’t see any man.’
‘I’m only telling you what was said.’
She went away without further comment, taking with her a cup and saucer that had been overlooked behind a vase. Joseph Paul passed into the big front room, where the evening lamps had been lit all day, the blinds drawn on two tall windows at each of which tasselled stays were looped around velvet curtains in a shade of russet. A profusion of net provided daytime privacy. Magazines were laid out on tables and on a stool in front of the fireplace. Ornamental elephants and their young strode the white amber-veined marble of the mantelpiece, above which Daniel O’Connell was framed in ebony.
He had been told about photographs being taken because it would worry him to hear it, because there was a lack of respect, a funeral photographed like a carnival would be. He wondered if she’d made it up; she often made things up.
He leafed through the Nationalist, left behind by one of last week’s overnight lodgers. Then, equally without interest, he turned the pages of an old Dublin Opinion. She wasn’t easy. He had watched her becoming devious over the years, and had hoped — had on a few occasions begged in prayer — that time would ease her discontent. When they were children their mother had liked to have her in the kitchen and often he was sent away to play by himself. He had looked through the crack when the kitchen door wasn’t quite closed, as mostly it wasn’t. He had watched her being shown how to tease out fat and sinew and which way to cut the meat, how to dust the pieces with flour, never too thickly. Their mother had instructed her in how long the simmering should be, when to add the dumplings, the Bisto. The day came when she was allowed to make a dumpling herself, another day when she might skin the apples for a pie, another when she might stir the custard and mash potatoes. The kitchen was their place, they were the women of the house — they and whichever maid it was, a girl from the country, or a widow of the town who needed the money.
Becoming used to this woman’s world, Joseph Paul hadn’t minded in the end. He chopped kindling in the outhouse, which their mother said was more a boy’s thing. She took him shopping with her sometimes, she called him her little fellow. He couldn’t make her cross, she said; he hadn’t it in him to make her cross. Every morning after breakfast they had sat together at the fire, not a yard from where he sat now.
He had the room to himself this evening because the notice that offered accommodation had been temporarily taken down. He listened to sounds that were familiar coming from the floor below: his sister bolting the front door, a rattle of cutlery in the dining-room, the sideboard drawer being pushed in, the windows that had been opened for airing closed and latched. There had always been the chance that she would marry, that the past she had never recovered from would at last be forgotten, that Gohery, or Hickey from the watch shop, would show an interest, that one of the men who came regularly for a night would, or one of the older bachelors in the town. She had been young when the trouble happened. She hadn’t let herself go when it was over. She hadn’t since.
He heard her footstep, light on the stairs, the footstep he knew best now that their mother’s would not be heard again. That he should be despised by his sister was one of blaming’s variations; he was aware of that and it made it easier that he was. She crossed the landing and came to stand near where he sat. The two back bedrooms should be decorated before the winter, she said, the same paint as before.
He nodded. Not looking round, not wanting to see the jewellery she wore to provoke him, he said he’d attend to the matter and she went away.
Reading Group Guide
It's summer in Rathmoye in the 1950s and in the hush of the funeral for Mrs. Connulty, a stranger appears, surreptitiously taking photographs of the burial and the bereaved. Afterward, Florian Kilderry, who has come to town to take pictures of the burned down movie house, quietly slips away—unnoticed by all but Ellie Dillahan. That moment is the beginning of a relationship whose effects will ripple outward from the two young lovers into the lives of other citizens of Rathmoye. William Trevor's Love and Summer is the exquisite rendering of one languid summer in that small town, an evocative exploration of love, memory, responsibility, and remorse. It's a stunning display of the emotional subtlety and linguistic grace for which Trevor is revered.
Over a career that has spanned fifty years, Trevor has built a reputation as one of the finest writers in the English language, an author whose acute sensitivity to the complexities of the human heart is matched only by the elegance and eloquence of his prose. In Love and Summer, his fifteenth novel, Trevor demonstrates his unerring understanding of the complications of loving and being loved, of the huge gulf between one's potential and one's reality, of the fragility of life and the immutability of memory. In Love and Summer, the memories of his characters drive the novel as much as their actions do.
Florian feels "memory did not let go" (p. 137), and the people of Rathmoye prove him right. Mrs. Connulty's death sets the main relationship of the novel in motion, but it also frees her daughter—known only as Miss Connulty—from living under her shadow. Rather than grief, Miss Connulty finds a grim satisfaction in having survived her mother (in both senses of the word), and she wears her mother's jewels as a symbol of her newfound freedom. As she goes through the paces of caring for the family home, Miss Connulty is drawn into the memory of her brief affair with a married man and of the fateful event that severed her relationship with her mother. Like Miss Connulty, Ellie's husband Dillahan is also plagued by heartache, haunted by the loss of his first wife and their child, and of the brief moment of carelessness that precipitated their deaths. For both characters, memory captures and condenses heartache, and their separate pasts soon become entwined with the growing romance between Ellie and Florian.
As summer in Rathmoye slowly passes, Ellie falls deeply in love with Florian, opening up a side of herself that she never knew existed. An orphan from the convent before her arranged marriage to Dillahan, Ellie had always been grateful for what she was given, and never asked for much, but Florian totally alters her perspective, making everything without him seem shadowy and dull. Existing only in anticipation of their meetings at his family's crumbling estate, Ellie experiences passionate love for the first time. Florian, however, is conflicted. Intent on leaving Ireland once his family's home has been sold, Florian wants to create a new life, one without the memories of his deceased parents or of Isabella, the woman who broke his heart.
Love is woven throughout the novel: love given but not received, received but not given. With each character's story folded into another, Trevor depicts life in Rathmoye as an intermingling of daily banalities and emotional brutalities. A novel that begins with a death and ends with a departure, Love and Summer is the story not only of one season, but of the years and events that lead up to that summer—the loves, losses, tragedies, and struggles that converge within one town, ignited by one sudden love affair.
ABOUT WILLIAM TREVOR
William Trevor was born in Mitchelstown, Ireland, and was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. Having worked as a sculptor and a copywriter, Trevor published his first novel in 1958. Since then, he has written numerous novels, collections of short stories, and plays, as well as works of nonfiction and children's literature. Trevor has won the Hawthornden Prize, the Whitbread Award, the Giles Cooper Award, and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times. In 1999, in appreciation for his work, he was awarded the David Cohen Prize by the Arts Council of England, and in 2002 he was knighted for his contribution to literature. He lives in Devon, England.