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A Bit on the Side: Stories Hardcover – September 23, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (September 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067003343X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670033430
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,978,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The protagonists of this haunting, emotionally bleak collection of stories—a new widow confessing to two surprised Legion of Mary sisters the secrets of her marriage to a hateful man in "Sitting with the Dead"; a woman stalked by her lonely, possibly violent ex-husband in "On the Streets"; an heiress who compulsively recounts her tragic life story to total strangers in "Solitude"; and a couple who exploit each other on a blind date in "An Evening Out"—are generally 50-ish, usually childless and almost always burdened by regret over relationships decayed or forgone. They live in the aftermath of irremediable mistakes, ruefully cognizant that hope and romance are often delusory covers for self-interest and survival. Even the young—an 18-year-old girl who weeps with regret over future betrayals, an Irish woman who calls off her wedding after realizing she loves the dream of America more than her intended—are melancholy and introspective. Trevor reveals his native Ireland as a world sandwiched between modernity and its accompanying wealth, secularism and vulgarity, and a past that was more soulful and pious but also more restrictive. The much-lauded Trevor (Felicia's Journey; The Story of Lucy Gault; etc.) explores the many sources and shadings of regret with his usual delicate but brilliant psychological nuance, brightened occasionally by nostalgia for the lost love that once impelled his characters forward.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

"If one were to pick a single word to characterize A Bit on the Side, it would be forlorn," writes Michael Dirda in the Washington Post. Here, as in his two dozen or so collections of short fiction and novels (see The Story of Lucy Gault, ****1/2 Jan/Feb 2003), Trevor introduces credible characters beset by hopelessness. But these Chekhovian stories, many previously published in The New Yorker, offer anything but hopeless reading. Trevor is a master of simple, quiet prose and psychological intuition, and, even if you don’t identify with each character’s plight, you’ll recognize familiar patterns of behavior. That critics laud the relative merits of each story attests to the great power of this collection as a whole. It only proves, as The New Yorker claims, that Trevor may be "the greatest living writer of short stories."

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kay Lexington on November 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Finding an author who labors for subtlety, one who more than appreciates it but rather writes for and of the reason of subtlety, for it alone, is awfully, awfully rare. Most authors don't seem to fully understand the magic of quiet intelligence, which allows a reader to slip inside a story and synthesize the events and details. As I have learned in school, it is subtlety that allows a reader to disengage from his or her life and suspend disbelief. I have never read any of William Trevor's work before, but I understand now why he is considered a master storyteller. A BIT ON THE SIDE is a remarkable collection indeed.

I recommend Paddock's A SECRET WORD, a brilliant novel-in-stories, for the same reasons.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CoffeeGurl HALL OF FAME on January 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I have read many great short-story collections, but this one is the best I have read in a very long time. A Bit on the Side showcases several of the darkest, bleakest, most thought provoking and haunting short stories out there. William Trevor has delved into human emotion in a way that most short-story writers aren't able to convey in a few pages. Some of the stories touched me, others disturbed me. And that is what I love about this collection. Trevor made me FEEL for the characters. A book is definitely a keeper when the language is so palpable it almost jumps out of the pages. My favorite stories are "Sitting with the Dead," "Justina's Priest," "Traditions," and "A Bit on the Side." I haven't read Trevor's previous efforts, but I will definitely give them a whirl. I cannot recommend A Bit on the Side: Stories enough.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
William Trevor guides us through streets and dank parlors and weakly lighted public places where his characters guard or choose to unravel those darker aspects of living he understands so well. In A BIT ON THE SIDE Trevor has written twelve short stories that could have been written by no one else. His prodigious gifts as a writer make him privy to the musings we all hold in private, knowing that voicing them would doubtless find misunderstanding glances in parting eyes of the people in retreat from our confessions.

Where does Trevor find these thoughts, much less these subtly drawn characters? In lonely corner tables in pubs, in the shy fears of wives of husbands departed in body or in spirit, in expectations of young Irish girls dreaming of better lives in America, or of poor pregnant mothers willing to offer their incipient child for adoption to spare their husband's jobless humiliation?

While William Trevor is a demanding author, one who graces his stories with subtle time lapses or changes that require the reader to be on the alert for the assured nuances of his craft, he is never less than amazing in his ability to paint portraits of people so odd in their ordinariness that ending a short story does not allow us to leave them alone. This is writing of the highest order - challenging, enriching, plangently longing, unforgettable. These are twelve treasures. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, February 2005
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jed Verity on August 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps mine is a case of mismanaged expectations, but I found this collection to be a merely average entry in the literary short story genre. The prose is excellent, of course, and some of the stories stand out, but most of them fail to impress, especially at their endings, which, almost without exception, are marked by forced poetry and profundity, as if Trevor felt that the story didn't hold well enough together on its own and needed an expository coda.

Overall, good but not great. Try some of his other stuff.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mark Stevens VINE VOICE on April 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
I am not a William Trevor aficionado, but I found these 12 stories spare, unique and strangely compelling. Trevor manages to draw you into the needs and wants of odd characters in difficult moments. His style is cool and nearly dispassionate--until you realize he is asking us to consider these lives with affection and appreciation. Whether it's first person ("Solitude") or third ("Big Bucks"), the writing doesn't flash or jump out at you, but there is a frankness to the images and the descriptions that rivets you to the spot. The overall mood is longing, disappointment, of things breaking or being broken, of longings unfulfilled.

In some ways, the stories are relatively easy reading--strong but straightforward vocabulary and plain sentence structures. A few times I found myself having to see what scenes Trevor was trying to do--it's almost so quick and cryptic at times that if you blink you'll miss it. He often starts mid-action. "In the theatre bar they still talked, not hurrying over their drinks although an announcement had warned that the performance would begin in two minutes." That's the first sentence from "An Evening Out," a story about the odd verbal dance between a man and a woman who have been set up by a dating service (a nifty tale of competing desires). We are thrust in the side door with Trevor's characters and given a chance to watch and listen. There's a bit of hand-holding by Trevor, but he's judicious in doling out tidbits of back-story.

I'd recommend starting with "A Bit on the Side," the title story and probably the most straightforward. If you like that, you'll get a flavor for his style. Some of the others are more obtuse. After the title story, I liked "An Evening Out," "Sitting with the Dead" and "Sacred Statues." These are all rich stories, however, told by a powerful writer.
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More About the Author

William Trevor was born in Mitchelstown, County Cork. He has written many novels, and has won many prizes including the Hawthornden Prize, the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award, and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. His most recent novel Love and Summer was longlisted for the Booker Prize. He is also a renowned short-story writer, and his two-volume Collected Stories was published by Viking Penguin in 2009. In 1999 William Trevor received the prestigious David Cohen Literature Prize in recognition of a lifetime's literary achievement, and in 2002 he was knighted for his services to literature. He now lives in Devon.

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