Bizarely a week or so before the Man Booker Long List was announced my Gran (who I know you are all a big fan of) was telling me how wonderful the author William Trevor was. She did add that invariably his entire works “end in tears before bed time” but equally were some of the most wonderful writing and prose she has read from a modern author. Now had I know that he had a new book coming out after such praise as that (my Gran doesn’t rave about authors often after 60 plus years of reading) I would have possibly put him in my guess for the Man Booker Long List this year, but I didn’t. Now reading the Long List I have had the honor of getting an early copy but would William Trevor live up to my long list hopes, let alone my Gran’s high praise?
‘Love & Summer’ is really a snap shot of several peoples lives in the village of Rathmoye, Ireland. I have to admit as I have a slight nosey streak I really enjoy books that have a decent plot but are very much about people and observations of characters and from reading this novel it’s clear that William Trevor is wonderful at this. However it is at the end of one characters life that the book starts and through this death certain characters meet and certain characters circumstances change for good.
The death of Mrs Connulty and her journey from building to building through the town after is the opening paragraph of the book and had me thinking ‘oh this is going to be gloomy’ until I read a line that made me laugh out loud. As she dies Mrs Connulty thinks that “she wouldn’t miss her daughter and she sincerely hoped she wouldn’t be reunited with her husband”, I thought that that was a brilliant line and one I wasn’t expecting. After her death we also see how grief affects her children both Joseph and the unnamed Miss Connulty. There are scenes with the latter and her mother’s jewelry that are fascinating and incredibly insightful.
Mrs Connulty’s death seems to affect everyone in Rathmoye as if you believe the gossip mongers “Mrs Connulty owned half the town” and everyone is out for the funeral. One such guest is Ellie Dillahan the young former convent girl and now second wife of the local farmer who used to deliver Mrs Connulty her eggs. There she spots a stranger to the village taking photos of the funeral that no one else seems to notice. The photographer is Florian Kilderry and he has originally come to photograph the burnt out cinema until he see’s the funeral procession. However someone else spots Florian and Miss Connulty decides he is bad news and must be kept and eye on as events unfold.
I won’t go into anymore of the plot as it would give too much away and so intricate is it that I could end up writing endlessly about the twists and turns of these wonderful often dark and compelling characters. The pasts of both Ellie and Miss Connulty are fascinating and wonderfully written and you do wonder how on earth William Trevor manages this in less than 220 pages, it is quite a feat and I can see for that reason why the Man Booker judges have selected it.
I will admit in parts with so many characters in such short spaces of time I found it occasionally confusing and had to re-read a fair few bits, but then this isn’t the sort of book you can sit down and read in one go just because its short. You can’t rush it as you may miss important small statements with the love story that runs through it, even if I wasn’t sure about Florian myself, and the fact that what story you instantly think you may get isn’t quite what is delivered. It is truly a book you have to savour it and with characters like my very favourite Orpen Wren who is a wonderful old man with dementia that plays a very pivotal role you will want to savour every scene.
I did really enjoy the book; will it make it into my short list for the Man Booker? Hmmm, time will tell as I still have another ten of them to read. I will say that this is a perfect summer book (as the title will suggest) and found it the perfect companion by the pool with a picnic this weekend even if as my Gran warned there were ‘a few tears before bedtime’.
Have you read any other William Trevor books? I definately want to read more of his fiction in the future and havn’t a clue where to start!