5 out of 5: In this slim novel, the fourteenth from Irish author William Trevor, an illicit love affair develops in a provincial Irish town in the 1950s. The story unfolds slowly through shifting points of view, including that of the two lovers and other townspeople, the perspective often so close we feel we’re inside the characters’ minds. With constrained prose hinting at hidden depths of meaning, Trevor gracefully weaves together multiple view points. The effect is truly brilliant, calling to mind Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Like Woolf’s classic, Love and Summer is a masterpiece of narrative structure.
The past haunts the characters populating this novel, whether it’s an aborted fetus, a tragic accident, a childhood love, or a once grand estate. Indeed, one mentally unstable character actually lives in the past, believing his wealthy employers to still need his services although the family departed decades ago. Trevor’s prose reflects this ever-present haunting. Everything “was done” or “had been.” About a person, it is said, “Her night was spent there,” about a dog, “Jessie she was called,” and about a nun, “Sister Agnes the geography nun had been.” Scattered throughout the novel, these inverted sentences impart an atmosphere of plaintive passivity. Trevor’s characters wallow in the murky swamp of their past regrets, never to break free and live a life filled with action verbs. A moving and beautifully told love story.