There’s nothing mechanical about the simple humility and compassion that make the best of Trevor’s stories so moving.



Tenth collection from the Irish-born Trevor, a dozen wise and beautifully crafted pieces from a master.

Most of the stories have to do with adultery, though the surprise is how many of the characters manage to treat one another with grace and kindness. In the title piece, Trevor (The Story of Lucy Gault, 2003, etc.) takes us through a single day in which two middle-aged lovers in London, who have built a comfortable second life together that’s organized around daily meeting places, end their affair with the honor and dignity they believe their love deserves. A lonely librarian (“Graillis’ Legacy”) tries to reconcile his dual love for his wife and for his former lover, after both have died, by refusing to accept an inheritance from one of them. In “Rose Wept,” a gossipy teenaged girl recognizes the adult cost that her tutor has paid for his wife’s infidelity. And in the stunning “Solitude,” one of the best tales here, a woman in late middle age makes a confession to a stranger: she’s attempting to come to terms with the life-long sacrifice her parents made for her own protection, after her mother’s infidelity resulted in a terrible accident that changed all of their lives. Her confessor reassures her: “Theirs [her parents’] was the shame, yet their spirit is gentle in our conversation: guilt is not always terrible, nor shame unworthy.” This capacity for forgiveness, even under desperate circumstances, is a theme tying many of the pieces together, while others deal with betrayals of a different nature: in “Sitting With the Dead,” a bitter widow confesses to a loveless marriage; and in “Sacred Statues,” a woman’s faith in her artist-husband’s work nearly leads her to sacrifice their child.

There’s nothing mechanical about the simple humility and compassion that make the best of Trevor’s stories so moving.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-670-03343-X

Page Count: 245

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2004

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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.


The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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