Book of the week: Summer love in a small Irish town

2010-02-10 00:00


Love and Summer

William Trevor

Penguin Viking

THIS is a sad and beautiful book. As fans of William Trevor will have come to expect, it is quiet and ­assured and nuanced, and the reader is led effortlessly through the hearts and minds of two characters as their fates draw them inexorably together and then, just as inexorably, push them apart.

The story is set in a small town in Ireland and the main players are Florian Kilderry and Ellie Dillahan, the former the scion and sole surviving member of a family of minor ­Anglo-Irish gentry, and the latter an Irish farmer’s wife. Being of settler stock, Florian feels essentially rootless and has placed his house on the market and has plans to seek a new life in another country. Before his departure, however, his path by chance crosses that of the young ­Ellie, a foundling brought up by nuns and married off to an older farmer who is haunted by the accident in which he inadvertently killed his first wife and child.

When Florian and Ellie first ­encounter each other there is a mutual attraction and then, slowly and irresistibly, their passion grows and blossoms, with all the remorseful secrecy that such a situation necessitates, before their fates conspire to separate them and send them back on their different paths.

There are no villains in this story: merely players caught up in the mysteriousness of human relationships and the vagaries of life. With the summer comes the blossoming of love, followed by the poignant ­realisation that with one player due to depart, and the other ever conscious of the goodness of her husband and the weight of the guilt that he is compelled to bear, the liaison must pass as the summer itself fades.

While Love and Summer may not quite match the major accomplishment of Trevor’s next most recent book, The Story of Lucy Gault, it very nearly does.

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