Books: Fiction in brief

Death in Summer by William Trevor, Viking pounds 15.99. There have been 31 births and 19 deaths in Thaddeus Davenant's house, and now there are to be more - more momentous events which emphasise the fragility and transitory nature of life. But the house itself and its surrounding cherry trees remain resolute: dignified, strong, able to withstand the storms which can rock the less sturdy to their foundations.

At first, there is little sign of the turbulence that is to come. Thaddeus, in one of those twists of fate that can befall the most unlikely of people, meets Letitia on a train and makes her his wife. Until then Thaddeus had been a man who knew solitude and did not fear it, but Letititia and her money hold out the promise of an assured future. Another twist of fate, and the summer turns to ashes: Letitia dies, the first of three deaths that season, cleaving open the life of the house and changing all those within it. Death and the sentiment it trails are all about us, like woodsmoke lingering in the air from an August bonfire.

Thaddeus and his upstanding citizen of a mother-in-law reveal themselves, in Trevor's prose, to be flawed, secretive creatures. But in Trevorland, that lonely, melancholy landscape in which we devoted readers feel so at home, there are others, far more battered and rejected by society, outside its conventional norms. There is Maidment, the eavesdropping, prying butler with a penchant for the horses; there is the blowzy Dot, pining for Thaddeus and memories of long gone days in hotel rooms; and there are Albert and Pettie, unlikely products of a children's home,with equally unlikely names.

All are immersed within their longings for others which will never be reciprocated, yet they cannot somehow conceive of this terrible truth. Instead for them, as Trevor so convincingly says: "Mystery in a person is attractive: more often than not it is its presence that inspires the helpless, tumbling decent into love."

Death in Summer is a veteran Trevor novel, with its lucid, spare prose, its air of menace and its social acuity. There is extraordinary sympathy here for people of such very different worlds, which clash with vertiginous results.

This is a story, above of all, of those who watch and wait. Thaddeus and his bride waited, and found one another. Maidment spies, and his wife waits for God to answer her prayers. Mrs Iveson, the mother in law, fails to watch and Pettie, biding her time, as she waits, snatches her moment with terrible consequences. And Albert, a cleaner for the London Underground, watches, waits and listens to bring them all out of the darkness again.

Yet for those of us who have waited, since Felicia's Journey, for that prize of the late summer, a new William Trevor novel, there is a tinge of disappointment. Trevor, in the autumn of his life, has lost something of the sprightliness of prose and plot which have marked earlier works. Yet even a flawed work by the master surpasses the offerings of most writers.

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before