Rye Reflections

July 2005 Opinion


A Treasure is Found

A belated book review

Marion Dunn

Dusting never tops my to-do list, but recently I tackled my bedroom bookcase. And I was rewarded!  Behind the other books, there was William Trevor’s A Bit on the Side, a Christmas gift I had forgotten I ever received.

I put the dusting on hold and sat right down to read.  Twelve masterpieces—and I do not use the term casually.  Several had previously been published in The New Yorker, but I had missed them.  

Here, in one volume, are tales of city people, country people, rich and poor people—all of them very human and some very inhuman.  Although these are sad stories, I was not in the least depressed reading them.  Trevor is not one of the “melancholy Irish”—or at least he does not make the reader melancholy.  Rather, his Irish perspicacity is what it is—clear, always realistic, never morbid but usually bleak, very to-the-point with no character less than fully drawn.  They are pared down and fleshed out as the story progresses.  

Most accept their lives as they are—Maeve in Justina’s Priest, with a  slightly retarded sister, a husband who cannot stay away from the pubs, and a live-in father-in-law who tries her patience; the new widow in Sitting with the Dead who bares her secrets to two Legion of Mary women who come to sit with her and are somewhat taken aback by her frank revelations of her husband’s cruelty; Evelyn’s acceptance of her scoundrel blind date in An Evening Out;  Graillis's refusal of his legacy to avoid gossip; the wrenching termination of an affair in A Bit on the Side.

No happily-ever-after endings here, but the stories are told always with tenderness, understanding and a bow to fate.

These tales should not be missed.  The Rye Library, of course, has a copy.

July 7,2005

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