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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting, heartbeaking page-turner.
This is a ghost story, but the ghosts are not dead, they are only "playing at being dead".
In Ireland, in the summer of 1921, Anglo-Irish families are caught in the war between the IRA and the British Army and many of their big houses are being put on fire. Captain Gault and his wife Heloise decide to leave Ireland much to the distress of their eight-year-old...
Published on 18 July 2003 by Myles na gCopaleen

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Not the Trevor I had come to love.
I arrived at this novel on the back of “The Old Boys” and “The Boarding House”, both of which I enjoyed enormously. I think the latter in particular is a fine novel. “Lucy Gault” is more celebrated than either and written much later, and was I believe a close contender for the Booker prize. Unless known in advance it would be hard to...
Published 8 days ago by Bluecashmere.


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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting, heartbeaking page-turner., 18 July 2003
By 
Myles na gCopaleen (Hampton Hill, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Story of Lucy Gault (Paperback)
This is a ghost story, but the ghosts are not dead, they are only "playing at being dead".
In Ireland, in the summer of 1921, Anglo-Irish families are caught in the war between the IRA and the British Army and many of their big houses are being put on fire. Captain Gault and his wife Heloise decide to leave Ireland much to the distress of their eight-year-old daughter Lucy. She decides on a plan to force them to stay but her actions have disastrous, unforeseeable consequences.
The plot is so poignant I could hardly bear to read on but I had to find out what happens next.
William Trevor's writing is beautiful and subtle. There isn't a word out of place. The pace of the story is calm and mesmerising, almost dreamlike, but the desire to discover Lucy's fate will keep you reading into the night.
I agreed with every complimentary word of the blurbs on the cover.
This is a sublime novel, much better than Life of Pi which beat it for the Man Booker prize 2002. But life isn't fair as The Story of Lucy Gault epitomizes.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an Irish classic, 21 Sept. 2002
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It is 1921 in rural Cork. But life in their big old house is anything but tranquil for the Protestant Gault family. In the midst of political turmoil, Captain Gault decides they must leave their house in Lahardane. But 8 year old Lucy has other ideas and makes her own plans. It is Lucy, then, who (rather like Bridget in Ian McEwan's 'Atonement')sets in train a sequence of events with devastating consequences for her family for many years to come. This is classic William Trevor. He writes simply, in an almost understated way, but very memorably, and evocatively. This book combines an intimate portrait of rural Ireland with a brilliant sense of tension, and the vulnerability of us all to the chance events of everyday life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written subtle and gently paced novel about a family tragedy, 26 Aug. 2014
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
A beautifully written story of a family tragedy that is subtle, readable and never overplayed. Trevor has a writing style that I really like - the prose and the underlying plot are essentially very simple and direct. There is no pretension in the way he writes, no showing off with long words or fancy literary tricks. Yet he demonstrates that these aren't necessary by producing a story that is compelling and easy to read, and full of emotion without becoming melodramatic. I love this quiet confidence in a writer and found the story all the more moving and enjoyable for the way it was written.

The novel is set in Ireland, initially when that country was fighting for independence from Britain. The eponymous Lucy is a child at the beginning of the novel, whose way of life is under threat as her family prepare to flee for England. A tragic misunderstanding sets the course of her life at this point, and the rest of the novel follows her to her death of old age. This is a good book to read if you're visiting or planning to visit Ireland as it's full of a reverence for the landscapes and traditional way of life, and you can easily relate to Lucy's desire to stay in the place of her birth.

It is a very sad novel, although the sadness is not allowed to overwhelm the story or become maudlin. Lucy and her family are believable characters, and the setting is evoked very clearly. Despite the unhappy nature of the events, there are flashes of humour in the tale. The pace is gentle, although it does remain compelling and never becomes dull. My only criticism is that it lost a bit of impetus at the end and the last quarter felt like a lengthy fizzling out. I kept expecting a last twist to come, but one never did - the book remained life-like to the end. Whilst it's realistic, it was a bit unsatisfying.

The gentle pace here would put off those who prefer to read action packed stories, but for anyone else it is a pleasant and readable novel by an author who clearly has honed his craft very well. Whilst it's not a happy story and emotionally engages the reader, it doesn't leave you feeling particularly upset, I think because there is a quiet resignation within it that the reader comes to feel as well. It's sad but hey, so is life, and in a strange way leaves you feeling a bit better about whatever sorrows your own life contains. Definitely worth a read if you love Ireland or if you're planning to visit there - and if you're not planning to, you may be by the time you finish!
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully restrained, brilliantly written, 30 Oct. 2003
This review is from: The Story of Lucy Gault (Paperback)
The Story of Lucy Gault, is the epitome of brilliant story-telling. It is beautifully restrained with Trevor holding control of his story like no other writer alive today. In turns, brooding and malevolent, and fragile and breezy, the story emershes you wholly in the life of the protagonist, Lucy Gault.
The story starts in Ireland in 1921. It is a time of troubles and the eight-year old Lucy and her family are being forced out of their idyllic home of Lahardane, their British ties no longer welcome and their lives threatened. Lucy does not want to go though and decides to intervene so that her parents will be forced to stay, if only for a little while longer. The tragedy that she unwittingly unleases resonates through the lives of everyone around her though, the ramifications rippling through all their lives, whether it be Lucy herself, Captain Gault and his doting wife, the housekeeper, Bridget and her husband; and even those that have been the initial catalyst to the whole sorry tale. And it is a sorry tale. As the years roll by and event follows event it is clear that these are all the result of a single action taken by a little girl. The realisation that we create our own destiny is played out in the most heart-wrenching manner. That's not to say that this is a depressing read. The language Trevor uses is succulent and tender, and the tiniest details he threads through the narrative enables the reader to succumb in entirety to Lucy's world. This in itself makes the final delicate pages all the more devastating.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book, 19 Sept. 2002
This was my first William Trevor book.Though I struggled at the very start of the book once it got going I could not put it down.The story of Lucy is sad but brilliantly told.Trevor has a gift,his writing style breathaking,his descriptions of characters and life remarkable.Though the book covers a long period of time the feeling of a changing world comes across brilliantly.I loved the 'old' Ireland at the start of the book and I feel that the sadness of a lost way of life came accross as well as the lonely and sad existance of Lucy.His characters all have burdens they carry heavily in life bringing home the hard realities that many of us face in our journey through life.
I loved this book for many reasons.It is different to anything I have read and Trevors style is sheer genius.You will follow Lucy through her troubled life and be left to ponder on what could or should have been if this tradgedy had happened in present day.Unmissable read this now !
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not the Trevor I had come to love., 23 Feb. 2015
By 
Bluecashmere. (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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I arrived at this novel on the back of “The Old Boys” and “The Boarding House”, both of which I enjoyed enormously. I think the latter in particular is a fine novel. “Lucy Gault” is more celebrated than either and written much later, and was I believe a close contender for the Booker prize. Unless known in advance it would be hard to realise that this novel and the earlier ones were written by the same hand.

“Lucy Gault” has an elegiac, delicate quality that clearly exercises a strong pull on some readers. For me it was a sad disappointment after the earlier books. The characters lack vitality; the storyline is predictable. It may not have helped that I read the novel immediately after the remarkable “The Little Friend” by Donna Tartt. The link between these otherwise very different novels is the placing of a young girl at the centre of the action. While for me Lucy remains at best a shadowy figure, especially in the novel’s later stages, in Tartt’s novel Harriet is a compelling, vibrant presence throughout. I’m afraid that I found this story anaemic and ponderous besides “The Little Friend”.

Trevor seems to me so much more at home dealing with the eccentrics of the early novels. There we find wit, energy, convincing characters and through the filter of humour, a truer sense of loss and loneliness than in this later novel. There we are close to some of the best work of Patrick Hamilton, another writer who writes of solitude via characters who mask their true selves in distorted caricatures. I love those early Trevor novels but am wary of approaching more of his recent offerings
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4.0 out of 5 stars Hauntingly Beautiful, 18 July 2014
By 
Kate Hopkins (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Story of Lucy Gault (Paperback)
I've tried reading some of William Trevor's short stories and have on the whole found them drab and depressing, so I started this book uncertain if I'd like it. I needn't have worried - this is a beautiful novel, dealing sensitively with trauma, memory and a rural Ireland of times past.

The novel opens in the 1920s. Lucy Gault is living with her wealthy Anglo-Irish parents in County Cork. She is a high-spirited eight-year-old, oblivious to the troubles in Ireland. Her parents, however, are very much aware that they are not welcome in their neighbourhood, and when a group of locals try to make an arson attack on their home, they make the heartbreaking decision to leave Ireland. Lucy doesn't understand why her parents want to leave their home (they never fully explain what is happening to her) and hatches a plan to make sure that they will have to stay. Unfortunately, her actions have terrible and unplanned consequences, and result in Lucy being left behind as her parents, believing her lost forever, leave the country and settle far away in Italy (no spoilers, we learn this early in the book). Lucy has a strange, isolated upbringing, cared for by her parents' tenants Henry and Bridget, finding a wonderful world of escape in books and needlework, but never losing her guilt at her early actions. Will she ever be reunited with her family? And even if she is, will this ever cure her sense of the strangeness of her life and being?

With a fine light touch, Trevor traces Lucy's life and that of her parents over several decades. There's some stunning descriptions of Ireland, and I enjoyed Trevor's affectionate depiction of Henry and Bridget and the locals in the town near Lucy's home. He also writes very well about Lucy's parents' time in Italy, where they try to escape the memory of their believed loss by sinking deeper and deeper into an exploration of art and religion. And where the later stages of the novel could be depressing, Trevor gives a consoling reminder of the potential goodness of mankind, showing Lucy's odd bond with one of the men who tried to burn her parents' home when she was a child (who has gone mad with guilt) and the strange friendship that the older Lucy makes with a group of Catholic nuns, who regularly come to take tea with her. He also shows us that solitude is not nearly as frightening as many people would believe - Lucy's deep involvement in the natural world and in books are very moving. True, some of the later scenes involving Lucy's father may strike some readers as too sad, and for me the character of Ralph, the novel's romantic interest, was not quite interesting enough to justify the passion Lucy seems to feel for him (or are we meant to believe Lucy would love any kind and handsome man, so isolated has she been?) But on the whole I found this a beautiful book, oddly serene bearing in mind its subject, and wonderfully lyrical in style. I will certainly want to explore more of Trevor's work.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Haunted, compelling, 12 Sept. 2012
The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor is a novel with such a strong sense of place that it is hard not read it with a consciously-applied west of Ireland accent. The sounds seem to fit so perfectly.

The book is the story of Lucy, her immediate family and their acquaintances. At the start Lucy is barely past the toddler stage, but she is a headstrong and independently-minded young girl who does not want to leave Lahardane, where she and her family seem to belong. Lahardane is a house an farm near Enniseala in Ireland. The problem is that her parents, Captain Everard and Heloise, have foreign, even English connections. The story begins in nineteen twenty-one, a time of revolution and change in Ireland and there are some who now are not as welcoming as they once were. There has already been an incident when Captain Everard shot and wounded a young man, believing that he and his friends had come to the house with an intention to do harm beyond petty theft. The time is right to leave the place, the couple conclude.

But Lucy is of this place. She has known nowhere else. She cannot contemplate such a change. But she is young. She will soon learn, soon forget, no matter how strongly she feels that her very existence is entwined with this place, this country, the sea, this community and its people she knows so well.

What separates Lucy from her parents might stretch the imagination of some readers, but it remains both possible and credible. In an era where individuals stay permanently connected as they roam, it might be hard to imagine an age when people are not just off the radar - partly because that had not even been invented then! - when they remain both impossible to locate and impossible to contact. If one separated party did not know the other's whereabouts, then the same was true the other way round. And if someone decided to cut with the past and start afresh, then they were separated from their former life for good, as long as they wanted to stay that way. But not in this novel...

Everard and Heloise are clearly quite wealthy people. They can do their own thing, virtually wherever they want. In the first half of the twentieth century, their desire to wander did not entertain anything outside of Europe, but that provided sufficient scope to satisfy their needs. Thus they meander into new lives, pursued by a sense of bereavement.

Lucy, on the other hand, got her way and stayed at Lahardane. She picked up an illness and an injury along the way, but one was quite soon cured and the other - well, the other became less significant as time passed, as did other considerations that were initially pressing. She grew up, loved a man, but dare not act on her feelings, since they were usually located elsewhere. She saw a war come and go, and perhaps did much the same with a life.

What happens to Lucy and her parents is fundamental to this book. But the main reason for reading it, and the main impression it creates, is its portrayal of west of Ireland life. Here are the conflicts, the supports, the tensions and the loyalties that characterised relations that remained, at the time, essentially colonial. There are issues of social class and the sustainability of livelihoods. Religion, of course, is never far from the agenda. But underpinning everything is a determination to survive, as individuals and as a community, to carry on despite everything that life and fate throw at you. Lucy does carry on, but in other ways her life stops when separation is understood, its overbearing reality never being accepted. She surely wants to realise her desires, but what are those desires? Does she allow herself the mental space to acknowledge them?

The Story of Lucy Gault is a hauntingly beautiful book. The writing is poetic, as well as crystal clear. The subject matter is murky, however, because this is a book about people who love one another, in their own, albeit detached ways.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Fate and Nostalgia in Rural Cork, 6 Feb. 2011
By 
Antenna (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Story of Lucy Gault (Paperback)
This book has a compelling opening with vivid descriptions of the landscape and rural life on the coast in 1920s Cork - we see the sharp contrasts between the Catholic poor and the local Protestant gentry, who are beginning to suffer attacks from disaffected youths. Much of this is seen through the eyes of the eight-year-old Lucy, and we can appreciate her anguish over her parents' decision to leave the house for the safety of England.

As seems to be a recurring theme for William Trevor, the story is all about the way chance events, and understandable but misguided actions, can wreak longterm damage - often of a subtle variety - in the lives of not only individuals but also those who have contact with them.

Ultimately, the novel succeeds in bringing the main characters, and the reader, into acceptance of fate, even the ability to see some positive outcomes of misfortune, including integrity in the face of adversity.

However, like some other readers, I found the pace of much of the book too slow, although I know this is intentional, since the details of daily life, exploration of minute thoughts and evocation of a former simple way of life are what really interest the author. I thought he had "made his point" by the middle, although some further "loose ends" are tied up in the final chapters.

I also agree that some key aspects of the plot are implausible - but perhaps this does not matter too much.

Although I admire Trevor's writing, the sense of some sentences escaped me, which was frustrating, since his greatness lies in the articulate flow and subtle insight of his prose.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A curtailed life, 16 Sept. 2009
By 
Eileen Shaw "Kokoschka's_cat" (Leeds, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Story of Lucy Gault (Paperback)
In the years between the two World Wars Ireland seethed with unrest. Rich Protestant houses were burnt out and families fled. In one such, Lahardane, lives Everard and Heloise Gault, with their daughter Lucy. An unsuccessful attempt to burn them out ends with the Gault's deciding to leave anyway, something that upsets Lucy, who is around 7 years old and loves her family home.

On the day they are to depart, Lucy disappears. Some remnants of clothing are later found on the strand and it is supposed that Lucy either took her own life in the sea, or was pulled down by the current. Captain Gault and his wife depart, to lead a restless, wandering life abroad.

But Lucy was not drowned. Instead she is found a month later, having broken her ankle and taken shelter in a derelict tinker's hut. Barely alive, she is carried back to the house by Henry, an old retainer, and is ministered to by Bridget, his wife. Attempts are made to contact the child's parents, but they have left no forwarding address, and war is about to come again to Europe, throwing civil society into disarray and confusion.

Lucy, attended by Bridget and Henry, lives on in the crumbling old house. Will her parents ever return to a place where they have latterly only known grief and heartbreak? Will Lucy herself ever be able to come to terms with what she has done?

The writing is lyrically beautiful, yet shorn of embellishment, a model of circumspection and revelation. One is drawn into this curtailed life with such completeness that reading it, one almost lives it. Trevor writes superbly wrought prose, delicate and yet robust, gentle and profound. The sense of place is acute, the characters are wonderfully drawn. This is one of the best novels I have read for some time.
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The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor (Paperback - 24 April 2003)
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