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A BIT ON THE SIDE by William Trevor Kirkus Star



by William Trevor

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-670-03343-X
Publisher: Viking

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.