Sterling collection of short pieces by noted Irish writer Trevor (Love and Summer, 2009, etc.).
The author is a bard of quiet disappointments and muffled misunderstandings in small places, and often nothing much happens in his stories—just as nothing much happens in most people's lives. He is also a practitioner of the perfect, all-enfolding sentence, as with the opening of the opening story: "Violet married the piano tuner when he was a young man. Belle married him when he was old." You just know that there's a tale in between, and if it's set in a perfectly ordinary setting, that tale will be told without the grimness and ennui that have been in fashion in the short story in the post-Carver era. Some of his stories are anything but ordinary, as when a priest is taken by surprise by a man he has helped, only to be accused of long-ago improprieties: "a brain addled by recourse to methylated spirits," thinks said priest, "would naturally be blurred by now"—but all the same he caves in to the two-bit blackmail of a bleary bum, guiltless but still guilty. Priests often figure in these stories, which are, after all, mostly set in Ireland (or, when not, in Italy), and religious questions, often exceedingly minor, come into play. In one story, a Protestant boy relates the manifestation of a saint to a priest, who wonders idly why it couldn't have been a good Catholic boy to receive a sign of visitation: "Was it not enough that that march should occur every twelfth of July, that farmers from miles away should bang their way through the village just to show what was what, strutting in their get-up?"No, he learns, it's not enough, as just about everyone in these stories has to cope with the imponderables that life throws at them.
Arresting images and troubling questions—Trevor is a master.
Set mostly in England and Ireland, the 48 [stories] are wry, wistful, slice-of-life stories that have been likened to those of Anton Chekhov because of their acute observations, limpid prose and subtlety of presentation and their focus on neediness, loss and heartbreak. Though it may be heretical to say so, I think Trevor is superior to the good Russian doctor.
The Washington Post
The title of this hefty volume is a little misleading. It doesn't select anything, strictly speaking, but merely assembles the stories from William Trevor's last four collections, so that in effect it's a sequel to the huge edition of his collected stories that came out in 1992. Together the two books add up to almost 2,000 pages of short fictionan enormous, Kiplingesque quantity of workand they are more than ample proof that Trevor is one of the two greatest short-story writers working in English right now. The other is Alice Munro, and no one else is even close.
The New York Times