LOVE AND SUMMER by William Trevor

Book Quote:

“He paused at the windows in case a display had changed overnight. None had: draper’s dummies were as they had been since early spring, the spectacles on an optician’s cardboard faces had been the same for longer. Pond’s beauty aids were still reduced, travel bargains still offered, interest rates steady.”

Book Review:

Review by Guy Savage (SEP 12, 2009)

In William Trevor’s novel Love and Summer, past and present don’t collide but instead merge into a shimmering, elusive and painful present. The novel set in the 1950s explores the lives of interconnecting characters following the funeral of Mrs. Eileen Connulty in the Irish town of Rathmoye. Mrs. Connulty was a respectable pillar of the community, and the Connulty family is one of the most affluent in the area. Eileen Connulty was a widow and she ruled the family and the family businesses–a pub, a boarding house, a coal yard and a number of other properties–with a rod of iron. She leaves behind two middle-aged children, a daughter “she was glad to part from,” and a son: “her pet since he first lay in her arms as an infant.” Most of the townspeople mourn Mrs. Connulty’s passing:

“The funeral mass was on the morning for the following day, and when it was over Mrs Connulty’s mourners stood about outside the cemetery gates, declaring that she would never be forgotten in the town and beyond it. The women who had toiled beside her in the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer asserted that she had been an example to them all. They recalled how no task had been too menial for her to undertake, how hours spent polishing a surfeit of brass or scarping away old candle-grease had never been begrudged. The alter flowers had not once in sixty years gone in need of fresh water; the missionary leaflets were replaced when necessary. Small repairs had been effected on cassocks and surplices and robes. Washing the chancel had been a scared duty.”

Mrs Connulty’s death is not equally mourned by everyone. To her daughter, her mother’s passing gives some belated freedom and lifts the oppressive atmosphere in the Connulty home. To Miss Connulty, at least, there’s a sense of impending change.

On the day of the funeral, a young man named Florian Kilderry travels to Rathmoye to photograph the shell of the town’s burned-out cinema. While in Rathmoye he catches a glimpse of young married Ellie Dillahan, and over the course of the next few weeks, the two lonely young people strike up a relationship. No one seems to notice the budding relationship–except Miss Connulty, and watching Florian and Ellie fall in love stirs painful, long-buried memories for the middle-aged spinster.

For readers of William Trevor, this is familiar territory–the Irish Diaspora that still haunts a country devastated by poverty, relationships wrecked by piety, and a society ruled by religious dogma. In Love and Summer, Florian is the by-product of an Irish-Italian match made by feckless, hopelessly romantic parents. While Florian inherited the family home after the death of his parents, it’s a shambles and is rapidly disintegrating around his ears. With no prospects of employment, Florian has put the house up for sale and is gradually selling off the valuables and burning personal property. Florian destroys his past yet faces an uncertain future while many other characters in the novel, Miss Connulty for example, are prisoners to their pasts and their memories.

While Florian’s home is ravaged by neglect and decay, his surroundings are in contrast to the home of Ellie’s much older husband, Dillahan. Dillahan is a character who’s a prisoner of his past, but he survives and endures by absorbing himself into the minuscule repairs required around his farm. Consequently, his farm is in excellent condition but underneath the surface of this immaculate homestead, is the turmoil of Dillahan’s grief and guilt for past events.

These characters merge and then move on into their respective futures in this gentle tale of an Ireland that longs to change while still mired down by immovable religious opinion. Duty permeates everyone’s lives, relationships and marriages, and yet will duty be enough for Florian and Ellie? Or do they want something more from life?

Love and Summer revisits some of the themes of Trevor’s last novel, The Story of Lucy Gault, and while Love and Summer is not Trevor’s strongest novel, yet once again the author shows his skill in recreating a sense of timelessness and a present that is permeated with loss and contaminated with stagnation and slow decay.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 46 readers
PUBLISHER: Viking Adult (September 17, 2009)
REVIEWER: Guy Savage
AMAZON PAGE: Love and Summer
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Wikipedia page on William Trevor
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More William Trevor reviews:

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September 12, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Ireland, Man Booker Nominee, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

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