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on 11 September 2009
These stories are very well written and Trevor's reputation is deserved. My one reservation is the fact that the stories are somewhat down beat and one just longs for a story illuminated by joy and peace but alas there are none of that type in this collection. I will make some observations on each of the stories, really to try and distill down my own reactions to stories:

(I) The Dressmaker's Child: a very strange story about a bond beginning to form between a man who accidentally knocks down and kills a wild child (daughter of an off-beam mother) and the subsequent incipient relationship that begins to form betweem the man and the mother. Really not sure I understood this story.

(II)The Room: a disturbing story about a woman married to a man, who was accused but not convicted of murder and her suspicious of his part in the murder and her trying to come terms with this over many years. The story resonates and disturbs.

(III) Men of Ireland: A tramp returning from England to Ireland after 23 years and his attempt to capitalise on the scandals in Ireland by soliciting money from a retired priest through insinuating the priest had tried to press drink on him when he was a young altar boy. The priest gives in through a kind of shared shame. A disturbing story.

(IV) Cheating at Canasta: a man returning to venice in response to a wish made by his wife before dementia took hold of her. I was failry neutral about this story.

(V) Bravado: another distrubing story, this time about a lad trying to impress his girlfriend by beating another lad on the way home from a party with fatal consequents. One comes away with a sense of utter pointlessness

(VI)An Afternoon: I did not like this story at all: a young girl and a predatory young man on probation.

(VII) At Olivehill: A catholic ascendancy familiy having fallen on hard times decides to sell their farm to be converted into a golf course. This was moving - a sense of change and a sense of loss.

(VIII) A Perfect relationship: the ending of a relationship between a young woman and an older man. A kind of moving story, particularly the ending where there is no real resolution of what is causing the relationship to end.

(IX) The Children: A recently widowed man taking up with a divorced lady and their decision to marry and the impact on their repsective children - a moving story.

(X) Old flame: An elderly couple and the husband's continuing to keep in contact with a woman for whom he had once intended to leave his wife. This is a puzzling story of how a couple and can live with such duplicity and how the wife is being crushed by the husband's old attachment.

(XI) Faith: This was one of my favourites about a Church of Ireland clergy man and his dominant sister. He appears to lose his faith whilst serving his country parish while she is undimished in her dying - indeed she is given a beautifully written happy death:

"She turned away, shuddering off a convulsion as best she could, but another came and she was restless. Confused, she tired to sit up and he eased her back to the pillows. For a moment then her eyes were clear, her contorted features loosed and were calm. Batholomoew knew that pain was taken from her and that she shed, in her first moment of her eternity, he too-long gnawing discontent; that peace, elusive for a lifeime, had come at last".

Any yet the minster remains at a loss?

(XII) Folie a deux: a story about not accepting forgiveness and redemption - the killing of a dog by 2 young lads results in the apparent disintegration of one of them through the sheer horror of what he had done.

Even though it would be fair to say that the stories were indeed down beat and lacking in hope, Trevor's economic style carries one along so that one is infused with a kind of regret for lost lives.
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on 31 August 2009
I have read most of William Trevor's collections of short stories and this collection certainly doesn't disappoint. William Trevor can say in a couple of sentences what it takes other authors a couple of chapters to put across. His use of English is economical and beautiful.

My favourite story in this collection is the title story "Cheating at Canasta" which is the story of a husband coping with his wife's descent into Alzheimer's disease. It is gently and touchingly told. As with all Trevor's short stories it makes you think.

I am not going to review every story. I will just say that I tried to ration myself to one story a day in order to make the book last. I failed miserably!
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on 21 November 2009
Not normally a purchaser of a book of short stories I purchased it as it was the selected book of my book club for the month. I particularly liked 'The Room' but thought a couple of the other stories were not very interesting, overall the stories were much of a muchness didnt really rock my boat . No doubting the skill of the writer though I did question some of the sente
nce structure here and there.
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on 1 September 2008
I remember reading Katherine Mansfield's story The Garden Party during
a sixth form lesson and finding its indirect, impressionistic style haunting and yet real. Mansfield's young protagonist Laura discovers death's
centrality to her existence one summer afternoon and the story's slow,
elegiac tone reveals her maturing acceptance of life's final
inexpressibility. `Isn't life -'Laura attempts to say near the end; her
inability to add a question mark, an acknowledgement of her sudden
humility.

William Trevor is a writer celebrated for his short stories and novels
which explore the problematic and uneasy relationship between the past
and present. Things are only ever finished, never finished with in
Trevor's chronicles of change and revisitation, and it is this subtle but
enduring truth that illuminates all the stories in this haunting collection.
People are enmeshed with each other in ways that escape direct
translation and such dependencies may silence yet define them.

In The Children a grieving daughter subtly sabotages her father's
attempt at a new marriage through reading her dead mother's books each
day. `Time would gather up the ends, and see to it that his daughter's
honouring of a memory was love that mattered also and even mattered
more.' Some departures must be respected for their unutterable finality
and hierarchies of affection must be observed.

Trevor's apparent exploration of adultery in The Room unnervingly
reveals that a wife's affair is an attempt to communicate her unresolved
fears that her husband murdered a woman nine years before. Instinctive
loyalty precipitated her alibi for him yet such loyalty is finite and
corrosive. People just leave in Trevor's world. Their words and worlds,
run out on them. `The best that love could do was not enough, and he
would know that also.' When love turns to irony, then Trevor's
protagonists seem more isolated and lonely than ever.

This latest collection of short stories also includes one of the most
casually cruel tales I have ever read, a story concerned with the
contamination of a childhood friendship, through silence and complicity.
In Folie a Deux, two estranged childhood friends accidentally meet again
in a backstreet Parisian cafe and barely acknowledge each other. Trevor
bleakly unveils the childhood incident which seemed arbitrary, pitiless and
beyond evaluation. The two boys, Wilby and Anthony had once put an old
friendly dog named Jericho on a Lilo one summer day and had watched
him float out to sea. `Far way already, the yellow of the Lilo became a blur
on the water, was lost, was there again and lost again, and the barking
began and became a wail.' We are spectators here upon a literal `lost'
horizon of innocence. Trevor's protagonists say nothing and neither does
he. He simply shows us what the boys did because they could. Wilby grows
up and becomes a stamp collector, his cruelty a mere `aberration'. By
contrast, Anthony has left all his allegiances behind, and is believed to be
dead. `I haven't died,' he says. Yet of course, he has.

Every story in the collection explores the ways in which we depart from
each other and from ourselves. Yet Trevor's stories are also humane and
testify to the enduring power of intimacy even after death. Promises are
made and respected and Trevor's title story Cheating at Canasta follows a
grieving widower to Venice where in a favourite cafe he remembers his
wife's love of cards even when her mind was progressively lost to
Alzheimer's. His reflections are interrupted by a married couple arguing
at the next table and his conversation with them as they depart offers
them all a healing change that Trevor's narrative intuitively acknowledges
but does not denigrate or reduce to mere certainty and `knowingness'.'
`Shame isn't bad, her voice from somewhere else insists. Nor the humility
that is its gift.' Trevor's gift is to listen to such revisitations and discover
their power.
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on 16 November 2013
More fine examples of William Trevor's short story telling. The stories in this book are subtle and poetic. The book was in good condition. Excellent value for money.
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VINE VOICEon 13 November 2009
I expected to enjoy this book but I had the feeling there was nothing original about it. Usually finish books but I gave up on this--it was depressing without being clever.
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