Friday, October 23, 2009

Summer in Ireland

I guess I'm just a sucker for Irish writers. Once again I was seduced by the beautiful prose of a master storyteller. This time it was the prolific and much admired writer William Trevor. In Love and Summer the story begins on a June morning in the Irish town of Rathmoye, as mourners spill out of the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer after the funeral of Mrs. Connulty, the matriarch of the town's most important family. She is mourned by the son she doted on and the daughter whose anger over the past still boils. Florian Kilderry, a young amateur photographer, happens on to the scene and snaps some pictures. Ellie Dillahan, the young wife of an older widowed farmer, observes him with interest before he pedals away on his bicycle.

From this beginning Trevor weaves the story of one summer in and around Rathmoye. He explores the inner lives of his characters with spare, honest prose, in contrast to the lyric descriptions of the lush summer landscape. Although initially he seems to be telling separate stories about each of his characters, their lives are seamlessly woven together as the story progresses. Trevor is Irish, so of course there's humor. Mrs. Connulty's daughter (known by all simply as “Miss Connulty”) exults in wearing the expensive jewelry her mother refused to let her touch when she was a child.

But as the summer ends the tone grows more poignant. Trevor gently examines the conflicting yearnings of love, passion, loyalty and the desire to escape. The final scenes are at once heartbreaking and comforting. At the end, I felt much as I did with another Irish book I read recently (see my blog of “Brooklyn”). I didn't want to leave Rathmoye, and wondered if I should read it again to see if it would end differently. The Irish get me every time.

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