‘In nearly all Trevor’s stories,’ wrote V.S. Pritchett almost four decades ago, ‘we are led on at first by plain unpretending words about things done to prosaic people; then comes this explosion of conscience, the assertion of will which in some cases may lead to hallucination and madness.’ Even here, in this collection drawing together those final stories left after William Trevor’s death in 2016, the same method holds true. Take ‘The Crippled Man’, the second piece of ten. It begins with an exchange between an older Irishman and two foreign workmen in the kitchen of a crumbling smallholding in County Kildare about the possibility of their painting his house. There could be no more homespun opening than the question of price based on one coat or two while a black cat pounces on pieces of bark fallen from firewood.
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