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BEYOND THE PALE by William Trevor Kirkus Star


by William Trevor

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 1981
Publisher: Viking

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.