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The Story of Lucy Gault Hardcover – September 30, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

A difficult novel for any parent to read, William Trevor's The Story of Lucy Gault recounts the tale of a young girl whose Protestant family is driven from its rural Irish home in 1921. Eight-year-old Lucy is in love with Lahardane: the old house itself, the woods, the nearby beach, the shells and fir cones and sticks that she collected like treasure. The day before her family is scheduled to flee Ireland, leaving the house and furnishings in the care of trusted servants, Lucy runs away. Her parents, finding a scrap of her clothing on the beach, assume the worst. Days later, they leave Lahardane, choosing not to settle in England, as they had planned, but to roam Europe in their grief, leaving no forwarding address. But Lucy has not killed herself; she's only broken her leg in the woods. Eventually she makes it back to the house to find her parents gone. She spends her childhood waiting to be forgiven for her wicked act, postponing all happiness until she can be reunited with her mother and father. Revealing more of the plot will spoil this lovely novel for its many readers. It is enough to note that Trevor's characteristic depth and emotional complexity are fully realized here in the watchful reticence of his young heroine and the strange but beautiful way she finds to express her own forgiveness. --Regina Marler

From Publishers Weekly

Trevor (Death in Summer) is one of the finest prose stylists writing today; his delicately shaded novels and stories often have a Chekhovian sense of loss and longing. This novel, with its elegiac tale of a quiet, sad life lived in the shadow of a wrecked childhood, could well have been penned by the Russian master. Lucy is nine years old when her father, a wealthy Irish army captain married to an Englishwoman, shoots at and wounds one of a trio of locals trying to set his Irish country house, Lahardane, afire in the 1920s. Captain Gault and his wife, Heloise, decide they must leave for England and safety, but Lucy, who has known no other home but Lahardane, flees into the woods on the eve of their departure and cannot be found. Eventually convinced she has drowned at a nearby beach, her parents leave for a life of wandering and grieving exile in Europe, utterly out of touch with their old life. Lucy, however, is discovered, starved but alive, days later by two faithful retainers, who with the aid of a family lawyer keep the house open as Lucy grows into womanhood. [...] Trevor's deeply poetic sense of the Irish character and countryside, his magical evocation of the passing of time, have never been more eloquent. This is a book to be quietly cherished. (Sept. 30) Forecast: Admirers of the author will need no urging to seek this out, and widespread and positive review attention should help win new ones.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (September 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670031542
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670031542
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,191,483 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By P. A. Hogan on October 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As in other Trevor stories, "The Story of Lucy Gault" demonstrates the cost of political turmoil in human terms. It is the time of "The Troubles" in Ireland and the Gaults are Protestants in a mainly Catholic country. But to summarize Lucy's story merely will diminish your experience of this exquisitely told somber tale of a series of ill-fated actions: by reckless and impetuous youth and by the well-intentioned. William Trevor, a long-time resident of England but born, bred and forever an Irishman, has described himself as "a God-botherer." "Most of my fiction," he said, "seems to do that. I'm definitely on the side of Christians, but I don't mind where I go to church, whether it's a Catholic church or a Protestant church." This sort of ecumenism pays off here where he plumbs the depths of both Catholic and Protestant characters. "The Story of Lucy Gault", which made the 2002 Booker Prize shortlist, is probably Trevor's finest achievement.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By C. A Cikra on August 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
As many others have said, I too love William Trevor's sparse, elegant style, and the heartache in the first third of the book left a profound impression on me. As the years in the plot passed, however, its utter unreality started to depress me. Real people don't behave in such ways (you don't check up on the old homestead or its loyal retainers, etc., FOR THIRTY YEARS??!!). Did the Gaults never have to pay taxes? Apply for a new passport? Come on. One can see that Trevor tries to address this essential problem by having Captain Gault say he wrote letters home many times but never sent them. He and his wife just live their lives of quiet desperation, so novelistic it becomes self-indulgent bathos. And poor Lucy? To use the parlance of the young, her life sucks, and then it sucks some more. End of novel. I'm sorry, but no matter how beautifully something is written (which this is), it ultimately has to add up to a credible story containing human actions the reader believes are plausible, even in the fictive world created by the author. Lucy's "redemption" in the end doesn't even feel deserved because she never did anything for which to be redeemed in the first place. A childish whim went awry. No one would blame a child for such a thing, yet her suffering becomes a way of life for her, gaining mythic proportions. One supposes Trevor intended just this sort of irrationality, but that doesn't make the book a satisfying work of art.
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41 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 9, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Reading the literature of Willaim Trevor is akin to listening to a string quartet rather than a symphony, to viewing a tiny Vermeer rather than massive Monet, to holding a seashell rather than viewing an aquarium. THE STORY OF LUCY GAULT is a life of enormous experience distilled by Trevor's deft hand into a mere 225 pages. The tale is an epic poem, a thoughtful elegy about love, forgiveness, sacrifice, and enduring kindness. The writing contains the truest scents of Irish language, the tale unfolds with the sweep of a Victorian novel, the emotions elicited are penetrating and piercing, and on many a page there simply cannot be a dry eye - so sensitive and delicate are the human feelings expressed.
Willaim Trevor writes with the clarity and economy of a poet while painting his vivid vistas of Ireland, England, Italy, Switzerland........and the human heart. Here is a book whose story is so fine that it is only on completing the novel that the reader can reflect on what a treasureable journey has been provided. This story is a tragedy of sorts, but as the author writes "Love is greedy when it is starved...Love is beyond all reason when it is starved." The meaning of these lines is for each of us, as readers, to find. Take your time with this book: the rewards are immeasureable.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Ireland, early 20th-century: in the midst of a volatile political climate, a family is forced to move in a hurry. They go to France, believing their young daughter dead-but she's not. Lost while visiting her favorite local places for what she believes to be the last time, among the crags and cliffs by the sea, an item of clothing caught in a branch seems proof to the horrified family and friends that she is gone, drowned.
William Trevor's riveting and suspenceful novel is the work of an experienced and masterful storyteller. More conventional in plot and form than most books I review, I can tell you no more than the information in that first paragraph unless I want to do a book report, not a book review. The review is that this novel is captivating, horrifying, tender, and astoundingly beautiful. Trevor writes not a word too few or a word too many, and his plotting and narrative timing are close to perfect.
Genius, it's probably not. But I'm getting incresingly tired of writers who shoot the moon every single time. I've read Trevor's stories, and there as here find him to be a supurb craftsman in an established British prose tradition-but what makes him stand out is his empathy--the capacity to genuinely affect the reader-and the lyrical atmosphere, his uncanny ability to create a lush literary landscape peopled with those crippled with gut-wrenching anxieties and pain. The result is a stylistic and narrative resonance of taut and tempestuous power.
If you want something fast-paced and saucy, you won't find it here. But if you can enjoy a novel by, say, Graham Greene, or appreciate the unique talent involved in writing such a book....then the present volume is better even than that. Or at least it won't let you down.
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