Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Suspenseful Tale of an Irish Girl's Quest

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Suspenseful Tale of an Irish Girl's Quest

Article excerpt

The characters and plot line of "Felicia's Journey," William Trevor's 13th novel, seem at once familiar and strange. Felicia is an awkward Irish girl, whose inexperience and low self-esteem make her easy prey to a handsome charmer. Johnny Lysaght convinces her he loves her but manages not to give her his address when he goes back to England.

Finding herself pregnant - to the horror of her family - Felicia goes to England to find Johnny, although she has little information as to his whereabouts. All she has is the name of a Midlands town where he told her he had a job in a lawn-mower factory.

In this town lives a fat, seemingly jovial, nicely dressed, middle-aged man who is respected by the people with whom he works. Joseph Ambrose Hilditch lives alone. No one suspects he has a secret life which involves "befriending" lost young women. When Hilditch sees Felicia, something tells him she is to be his next special "friend."

Alone, confused, and short of funds in a strange city, Felicia is vulnerable. And Hilditch is kind and helpful, driving her from one place to another in a fruitless search for the nonexistent lawn-mower factory while listening patiently to her story. Only gradually does it become clear what Hilditch wants from his "girlfriends" and what has become of the five young women - Felicia's predecessors - who live on in Hilditch's "Memory Lane."

"Felicia's Journey" could be called a novel of suspense, although it is more than that. Trevor, an accomplished writer, clearly understands that the secret of suspense lies in what is not said. Although the threat of violence is everywhere, scenes of violence are virtually nonexistent. And as the story unfolds, Trevor also manages to evoke a powerful sense of the larger world or worlds - repressive rural Ireland, the amorphous English Midlands conurbation - that shape the lives of his characters. …

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