BEYOND THE PALE by William Trevor
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Another strong collection of short stories--with Trevor again testing the shoddy insular hypocrisies which protect the comfortable inside a pale. . . "while beyond it He the bleak untouchables. . . and evil breeds evil in a mysterious way." In the title story, more explicit in statement than usual, two English couples--a fatuous, casually sinning trio and one "ineffectual" wife--vacation in a lovely Irish resort hotel, where a suicide (in spite of attempts at a genteel hush-up) opens up a chasm of primitive fury. in "Autumn Sunshine," a good and gentle clergyman, mourning his recently deceased wife, is visited by a cherished youngest daughter and her scrungy current lover--who, like so many alienated English, assumes the Irish cause for his own purposes. Often here, too, murder threads beneath the prettiest of lies: a former journalist, now institutionalized, remembers his onetime fiancee, young and beautiful, and her sweetly mannered family--who had, long ago, sweetly glossed over their daughter's murder of another child; a man "who could not bear to lose" commits a perfect murder when his wife and her childhood friends put him out of countenance. And there are also those who hover outside the false security of the smugly righteous: a sad middle-aged woman, deserted by her husband, about to lose her adopted child, accepts her fate--to be the one "Being Stolen From"; a young university student, grieving anew each Christmastime for an old guilt, silently punctures the "normality" of hosts and guests at a tedious party. Plus: the love of a young girl for her father, soured by doubt; love, unconsummated over decades, ritually celebrated by octogenarians; and dazzling deception and perversion in the amusingly savage, rather overdone "The Bedroom Eyes of Mrs. Vansittart." Irresistible storytelling--and, despite some atypical excesses, Trevor's skill remains awesome.
Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 1981
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1981


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