Books: Fiction in brief
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.
game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Fire at every person you see': Israeli soldiers reveal they were ordered to shoot to kill in Gaza – even if the targets may have been civilians
- 2 Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
- 3 General Election 2015: 14-year-old boy asks Nick Clegg – 'can you kill Katie Hopkins?'
- 4 Garland shooting: Isis claims attack on Prophet Mohamed cartoon contest in Texas as its first action on US soil
- 5 Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
Jorge Luis Borges fan brings his infinite library to life online
Game of Thrones, season 5 episode 4, review: Sansa in danger of becoming another footnote in Westeros' bloody history
The highly NSFW poster for Gaspar Noé's Love makes Nymphomaniac look like 50 Shades
Trailer for Robin Williams' last film Absolutely Anything starring Simon Pegg released
In defence of liberal democracy
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils