Love and Summer is a novel written by William Trevor, first published in 2009 and long-listed for the Booker prize. The story takes place in the fictitious town of Rathmoye in Ireland during the 1950s. It concerns the illicit love between a photographer and the young married wife of a farmer.
William Trevor KBE (24 May 1928 – 20 November 2016) was an Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer. One of the elder statesmen of the Irish literary world, he was widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary writers of short stories in the English language.
He won the Whitbread Prize three times and was nominated five times for the Booker Prize, the last for his novel Love and Summer (2009), which was also shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award in 2011. His name was also mentioned in relation to the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 2014, Trevor was bestowed Saoi by the Aosdána.
Trevor resided in England from 1954 until his death at the age of 88.
Works and themes
He wrote several collections of short stories that were well received. His short stories often follow a Chekhovian pattern. The characters in Trevor's work are typically marginalised members of society: children, the elderly, single middle-aged men and women, or the unhappily married. Those who cannot accept the reality of their lives create their own alternative worlds into which they retreat. A number of the stories use Gothic elements to explore the nature of evil and its connection to madness. Trevor acknowledged the influence of James Joyce on his short-story writing, and "the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal" can be detected in his work, but the overall impression is not of gloominess, since, particularly in his early work, the author's wry humour offers the reader a tragicomic version of the world. He adapted much of his work for stage, television and radio. In1990, Fools of Fortune was made into a film directed by Pat O'Connor, along with a 1999 film adaptation of Felicia's Journey, which was directed by Atom Egoyan.
Trevor's stories are set in both England and Ireland; they range from black comedies to tales based on Irish history and politics. Common themes in his works are the tensions between Protestant (usually Church of Ireland) landowners and Catholic tenants. His early books are peopled by eccentrics who speak in a pedantically formal manner and engage in hilariously comic activities that are recounted by a detached narrative voice. Instead of one central figure, the novels feature several protagonists of equal importance, drawn together by an institutional setting, which acts as a convergence point for their individual stories. The later novels are thematically and technically more complex. The operation of grace in the world is explored, and several narrative voices are used to view the same events from different angles. Unreliable narrators and different perspectives reflect the fragmentation and uncertainty of modern life. Trevor also explored the decaying institution of the "Big House" in his novels Fools of Fortune and The Story of Lucy Gault.
Awards and honours
Trevor was a member of the Irish Academy of Letters and Aosdána. He was awarded an honorary CBE in 1977 for "services to literature", and was made a Companion of Literature in 1994.In 2002 he received an honorary KBE in recognition of his services to literature.
Trevor was nominated for the Booker Prize five times, making the shortlist in 1970, 1976, 1991 and2002, and the longlist in 2009. He won the Whitbread Prize three times and the Hawthornden Prize for Literature once.
Since 2002, when non-American authors became eligible to compete for the O. Henry Award, Trevor won the award four times, for his stories Sacred Statues (2002), The Dressmaker's Child (2006), The Room (2007), a juror favourite of that year, and Folie à Deux (2008).
Trevor was shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award in 2011.
1965: Hawthornden Prize for Literature for The Old Boys
1970: Mrs. Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel was shortlisted for the Booker Prize
1975: Royal Society of Literature for Angels at the Ritz and Other Stories
1976: Whitbread Award for The Children of Dynmouth
Allied Irish Banks Prize for fiction
Heinemann Award for Fiction
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize
1980: Giles Cooper Award for Beyond the Pale
1982: Giles Cooper Award for Autumn Sunshine
1982: Jacob's Award for TV adaptation of The Ballroom of Romance
1983: Whitbread Prize for Fools of Fortune
1991: Reading Turgenev was shortlisted for the Booker Prize
1994: Whitbread Prize Best Novel for Felicia's Journey
1999: David Cohen Prize by the Arts Council of England in recognition of his work.
2001: Irish Literature Prize
2002: Irish PEN AwardThe Man Booker Prize 1970
2002: The Story of Lucy Gault was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award
2003: Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award at the Listowel Writers' Week
2008: Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award in Irish Literature
A monument to William Trevor was unveiled in Trevor's native Mitchelstown on 25 August 2004. It is a bronze sculpture by Liam Lavery and Eithne Ring in the form of a lectern, with an open book incorporating an image of the writer and a quotation, as well as the titles of his three Whitbread Prize-winning works, and two others of significance.
On 23 May 2008, the eve of his 80th birthday, a commemorative plaque, indicating the house on Upper Cork Street, Mitchelstown where Trevor was born, was unveiled by Louis McRedmond.
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Novels and novellas
A Standard of Behaviour (1958)
The Old Boys (Bodley Head, 1964)
The Boarding House (Bodley Head, 1965)
The Love Department (Bodley Head, 1966)
Mrs Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel (Bodley Head, 1969)
Miss Gomez and the Brethren (Bodley Head, 1971)
Elizabeth Alone (Bodley Head, 1973)
The Children of Dynmouth (Bodley Head, 1976)
The Distant Past (Poolbeg Press, 1979)
Other People's Worlds (Bodley Head, 1980)
Fools of Fortune (Bodley Head, 1983)
Nights at the Alexandra (Hutchinson, 1987)
The Silence in the Garden (Bodley Head, 1988)
Two Lives (the two novellas Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria) (Viking Press, 1991)
Felicia's Journey (Viking, 1994)
Death in Summer (Viking, 1998)
The Story of Lucy Gault (Viking, 2002)
Love and Summer (Viking, 2009)
The Dressmaker's Child (Penguin Books)
Short story collections
The Day We Got Drunk on Cake and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1967)
The Ballroom of Romance and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1972)
The Last Lunch of the Season (Covent Garden Press, 1973)
Angels at the Ritz and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1975)
Lovers of their Time (Bodley Head, 1978)
Beyond the Pale (Bodley Head, 1981)
The Stories of William Trevor (Penguin, 1983)
The News from Ireland and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1986)
Family Sins and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1989)
Outside Ireland: Selected Stories (Viking, 1992)
The Collected Stories (Viking, 1992; Penguin, 1993, 2003)
After Rain (Viking, 1996)
Cocktails at Doney's (Bloomsbury Classics, 1996)
The Hill Bachelors (Viking, 2000) ISBN 978-0141002170
A Bit On the Side (Viking, 2004) ISBN 978-0143035916
Cheating at Canasta (Viking, 2007) ISBN 978-0670018376
Bodily Secrets (Penguin Great Loves, 2007; new selection of stories from earlier collections) ISBN 978-0141033235
The Collected Stories (Viking, 2009)," ISBN 978-0140232455.
Selected Stories (Viking, 2010), listed as "the second volume of his collected stories" ISBN 978-0-670-02206-9.
Last Stories (Viking, 2018)
Ellie and her farmer husband Dillahan live a quiet life near the town of Rathmoye. She is a foundling who was raised in an orphanage by Catholic nuns and is the second wife of Dillahan, who earlier had killed his first wife and child in an accident.
During the funeral of Mrs Connulty at Rathmoye a stranger, Florian Kilderry, asks Ellie for direction to the burned down cinema, and their brief conversation is noticed by Miss Connulty, Mrs Connulty's spinster daughter, who determines that the two have struck out a love relationship based on this tenuous encounter. Florian, a photographer, and Ellie begin to notice each other and soon a love affair spanning the languid summer takes place, as the couple remember their lives lived up to that point
There is a touch of JD Salinger about William Trevor - except, of course, that Trevor publishes faithfully every few years: novels and collections of stories. He is 81 years old. His last short-story collection, Cheating at Canasta, began, as Roy Foster pointed out, with a masterpiece. "How does Trevor do it?" was Foster's marvelling question. How does he do it? Mysteriously. This vexed, misused and secret word also applies to his new novel, Love and Summer (a title that sings back to an earlier book, Death in Summer). His new work is all about life, and if there are dampers and de-accelerants on that life, it is nevertheless a fabulously benign book - almost, I might say, a work of sympathetic magic, as if to describe a troubled utopia might be to instate it.
It is useful to state Trevor's ground, his Ireland (inasmuch as one can guess it, think back into it). He was born in Cork into a middle-class Protestant family (this is important - not the great landowning Protestants with their flagstones of guilt weighing them down). He grew up seemingly untouched by the extravagantly unhappy marriage of his parents, moved around a lot as a child, attended maybe13 schools - all the disruption a writer could ask for, though maybe not the child. He left Ireland while quite young, became a sculptor for a while, and then settled to writing. By his own account he writes from an early hour until 11am, and after that fills his days with the garden, this and that, cups of whatever with his wife, to whom all his books are dedicated. For all the day, though, you sense, he is a writer, writing like a sculptor, in that he creates a mass of material and then happily, passionately, brilliantly takes away, takes away, swirl of sentence by swirl of sentence.
It sounds like a life perfectly arranged, and may be so, especially in light of this new book, which is also about achievable happiness at some level. The old Trevorian music of sadness doesn't dominate quite so much. Although there are great forces brought against the lives of Ellie, his beautiful heroine, her husband Dillahan, Miss Connulty fingering her late mother's jewellery, hers at last, and Florian, the young man Ellie falls in love with, there is constantly a sense of human happiness achieved. Miss Connulty's brother, though entirely becalmed, yet has a taint of happiness in him. The parish priest is in a permanent state of elation. The nuns who brought up Ellie as a foundling seem the epitome of thoughtfulness and grace, and are the little gods to whom she refers in her mind. All fabulously strange in our understanding of a past Ireland, and all fabulously, deliciously familiar. An act of magic: write it down and it may be so. It is also restating the godly fact of singularity. Every story is possible, even a story of grace in a country holding on to grace with exhausted hands. Every great story, in fact, may possess this quality of one time only. This happened, but not generally. Specifically.
It's from the subtle yet ferocious specificity of this story that its power rises. The most entrancing character among the vivid cast is Ellie. When Trevor writes about her, something happens to his very syntax. It clears out, it rises up, it breaks away into a sort of floating condition. It becomes breath and life itself. Here is the young woman dressing in her farmhouse: "Soft fair hair, once difficult, was now drawn back, the style that suited it best." Who is considering the style that suits her best? She herself? The world that knows her? Trevor? Ourselves? He places her before us with such strange tact that we are to see her in utmost privacy, not with human eyes exactly, but with the new eyes that art lends us for a moment. We are drawing Ellie with new hands even as she is unfolded before us.
In this landscape and place, which is "some years after the middle of the last century", there are other new strangenesses. Miss Connulty, who in other fictional worlds might be expected to move against Ellie and her affair with Florian, becomes instead the safety net that would catch her if she fell. The strange character of Orpen Wren, a sort of lost historian who sees everything and knows nothing, who goes out to tell Ellie's husband something catastrophic at the end, does not bring catastrophe as such. Her husband, meanwhile, is another beautifully composed character, who has accidentally killed his first wife and their child and farms in a place he does not seek to escape, as a thousand other Irish fictional characters like him might. It is all turned on its head.
In this way it might be suggested that the novel is about freedom. Florian, the young man not quite of the big house, but big enough, whose eccentric parents are dead, will break a vow and leave - and more extraordinarily, will achieve the leavetaking, with his failed attempts at painting and photography behind him, but with some hope for the fragments of writing in his notebook before him. It is not about freedom from self, but the necessity to bring the self to the place where it can be free. Dillahan the husband is free at home; Florian is not, so he must go. Miss Connulty is free because her mother is dead. Orpen Wren is free because he is mad.
Most wonderfully of all, Ellie becomes free because, although she has already been there for some years, she only finally arrives at the farm, one might say, because she is pierced through with compassion for her husband.
The ordinary throughout is presented as instances of paradise just about to be reached. That Trevor allows his characters so much is not only due to the innate generosity for which he is justly worshipped as a writer, but to a new grace again, something further, that marks this book as particular, miraculous; in it old matters are made new, transformed, redeemed.
The last pages represent freedom of another sort, when a writer untethers himself, and his prose rises to new heights. After a thousand details, thousands of lovely sentences, we have this one: "They sing in their heads a song they mustn't sing, and wonder who it is who doesn't want them."
Trevor lives quietly, his countless awards seeming to leave no disruptive mark (he recently received the David Cohen award, a sort of English Nobel; Love and Summer has been longlisted for the Man Booker). One can imagine him accepting the Nobel itself in a quiet way and getting back as quick as he can to his refuge in England, the chats, the garden, the workroom. He is a great writer balanced in the beneficent guise of anonymity. It is worth stating, for its uniqueness in these present times, what he does in order to make these books. What he has done for some 60 years to make such a book as this possible, the time he has spent well to create something timeless.
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