Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Posthumous Works from a Master of the Short Story

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Posthumous Works from a Master of the Short Story

Article excerpt

Last Stories by William Trevor (Viking, PS14.99) David Sexton WILLIAM Trevor, who died in November 2016, aged 88, wrote an extraordinary number of short stories one anthology of them runs to more than 1,000 pages. Oddly, these 10 "last stories" are published without any explanation or introduction but Viking confirms they were written as a collection and found by his son as a completed manuscript after his death.

They will delight his dedicated admirers. However, for those less persuaded of the status claimed for him on the sleeve as the greatest writer of short stories in English for more than half-a-century, they may serve more to highlight his mannerisms and foibles; how repetitiously, almost lusciously, he dwelt on the poignancy of lives gone irredeemably wrong, wasted and forever diminished.

The opener, The Piano Teacher's Pupil, is the most cheerful. Miss Nightingale, a piano teacher, now in her fifties "with a quiet beauty continuing to distinguish her features", has known disappointment in life, a 16-year affair with a married man having come to nothing. But, thrillingly, one of her pupils turns out to be a musical genius. To be sure, he steals knick-knacks from her during the lessons "next Friday a porcelain swan went, and then her pot lid with a scene from Great Expectations on it" but she comes to understand it is not what matters in comparison with his gift. "There was a balance struck: it was enough."

The other stories are tales of delectably unmitigated disaster, in comparison. In At the Caffe Daria, a wife whose husband left her for her best friend brutally refuses to renew their friendship after his death, even though it is what they both need. …

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