Love and Summer, by William Trevor

October 31, 2009 at 7:17 pm (Book review, books)

love&summer Set in the tiny town of Rathmoye in Ireland, where, a reviewer tells us, “nothing happens and everything happens” –  a concept with which Miss Marple would empathize instantly –  Love and Summer is a bittersweet tale of anguished love, divided loyalties, and the persistent desire to be good – even in the face of unruly desire.

Ellie has come straight from convent school to Dillahan’s farm, first to be his housekeeper and then his wife. Sheltered and unworldly, she does not at first know her own heart. She come to know it only too well in the course of this poignant tale.

Some years before Ellie first came to the farm, her husband had suffered a horrible tragedy: his wife and young child had been killed in an accident. The mishap involved machinery that Dillahan himself had been operating at the time. He thought his life was destroyed irrevocably and forever. But then Ellie came into it, her arrival signaling the unhoped-for prospect of consolation, companionship, and finally, love.

Ellie and Dillahan’s story unfolds in the richly woven context of rural Ireland in the 1950’s, a time and place that seem very remote. Trevor peoples his story with interesting secondary characters who tend to be reserved, even severe. Along with her brother Joseph Paul, Miss Connulty operates a bed and breakfast in the town. A harrowing incident in her past nearly destroyed their family and permanently formed her bleak future. Old Orpen Wren, his mind slowly going, lives almost wholly in the past and spends his days wandering  through the town and occasionally out into the countryside. At times I found Wren somewhat annoying and intrusive – until  suddenly he became crucial.

Trevor’s style is spare in the extreme. As with short stories (and even more so with poetry), this kind of writing requires a very precise choice of words. Trevor, an acknowledged master of the short form, does this with ease –  or rather, he makes it seem as though he does it with ease.

A beautiful book.


William Trevor


  1. Kaosar said,

    I recently finished Love and Summer as well and like yourself found it to be a well-written and beautiful piece. I enjoyed, more so, the writing itself than the actual plot, though the characters are very well-developed and relatable. I especially found myself liking Ellie a lot. Her conflict was so real – felt so real with all that inner-turmoil and the façade of calmness that no one, except her husband, who attributed it to boredom and Miss. Connulty were able to pick-up upon.

    Good points, I enjoyed your perspective on the book.

  2. Best books of 2009: my own favorites « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] Hall by HilaryMantel Love and Summer by William Trevor To Heaven by Water by Justin Cartwright The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko […]

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