FOOLS OF FORTUNE by William Trevor
Kirkus Star


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Again, as in many of his recent short stories, Trevor devotes this immaculate new novel to the insidious legacy, the spreading stain, of random acts of violence--specifically those rooted in Ireland's "continuing battleground." The most richly kind and gentle of people--like the mill-owning Quintons of Kilneagh--can become the fools of fortune in the wake of violence, as recalled by William Quinton in the novel's first section. William remembers himself at age eight in 1918, tutored by Father Kilgarriff, a mysteriously unfrocked priest, in a "scarlet dining room fragrant with the scent of roses." He recalls his father, a "bulky, lazy-looking" man who favors a teddy-bear dressing gown and walking down a silent avenue of beech trees trailed by his dogs; pretty English-born Mother, who wields untroubled authority; two small sisters; and, in the "orchard wing" of Kilneagh, Aunt Fitzeustace of "notable jaw" and timid Aunt Pansy. But this rose-scented idyll will be blasted apart after the Quintons, foes of injustice, welcome revolutionist Michael Collins at Kilneagh: the children are thrilled and horrified by the obscene execution of Doyle, one of Father's mill workers, who has been spying for the Black and Tans. And then an English spy named Rudkin, Doyle's contact, will wave a friendly greeting on a street comer to Father and Willie--the day before Father's body smoulders on the stairs of Kilneagh, the two screaming little girls dying in flames. . . while bullets splatter and the dogs' barking abruptly stops. In the years that follow, while Mother sinks into grieving alcoholism, Willie finds cruelty and hatred at school but finds love with his English cousin Marianne. And though, after Mother dies of self-inflicted violence, Willie fulfills a vengeful legacy and leaves Ireland, Marianne will bear his child: Imelda, who'll be raised, fatherless, in the ruins of Kineagh, sealed into the bitter past by Marianne and those aging wraiths of the orchard wing. So, even decades later, the screams of burning children will still sound over the scent of roses--in the mind of mad, middle-aged Imelda. Like the story "Matilda's England" in Lovers of Their Time: a masterly tracing of the shadow of violence through time, muted but never canceled out by love--in a restrained, elegant, austerely affecting family-tale.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1983
ISBN: 0143039628
Page count: 207pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1983


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