18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of Trevor
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...
Published on October 7, 2002 by P. A. Hogan
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars incredulity reigns
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...
Published on August 4, 2004 by C. A Cikra
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of Trevor,
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.
40 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When Less Is More,
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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.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Riveting and Heart-Rending.,
By A Customer
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. For when it comes to telling a story, lots of people can do it. But for me, when the story is told well, in a traditional way, and yet the feeling it leaves me with is best described as "eerie" or "disquieting"--then maybe it wasn't so traditional after all.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars incredulity reigns,
This review is from: The Story of Lucy Gault: A Novel (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.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Calamity shapes the story...and is its reason for being.",
This old-fashioned saga of eighty years in a family's life, from the Partition of Ireland in 1921 to the present, differs from other such novels in that it is very short, a mere 228 pages, packed with intimate character portrayals and enough heartache to fill a book three times its size. Like many other authors who excel at short story writing, Trevor compresses images and scenes, and his well honed ability to make a few words do the work of dozens allows him to create a book which is simultaneously intensely personal and broad in its time horizon.
The Everard Gault family, Protestant estate owners in the south of Ireland, does not want to join the exodus of other Protestant families leaving Ireland for England in 1921. When three young men sneak up to their house with gasoline one night, intent on burning them out, Capt. Gault, in an action reminiscent of the precipitating event of a Greek tragedy, fires a warning shot, accidentally wounding one of the young men and setting in motion a series of actions and reactions which ultimately affect the lives of nearly a dozen other people over the course of eighty years. His nine-year-old daughter Lucy runs away into the hills. Gault and his wife, finding evidence which "proves" that she has drowned instead, leave for Europe in despair. A seriously injured and almost starving Lucy is eventually found, but her parents are not, leaving her to be brought up in the abandoned house by two loving servants. A child who blames herself entirely for her heartsick parents' departure, Lucy is unable to accept love or forgiveness until she can atone for her childish mistake of running away.
In the hands of a lesser writer, the calamities, the "almost contacts" between Lucy and her parents, the coincidences, and the unremitting self-sacrifice of Lucy, even in the face of true love, might lead one to consider this just another melodrama. In the hands of Trevor, however, the narrative is developed so carefully, the mood is sustained so effectively, and the details are so well selected that the reader is quickly caught up in the story and its suspense, and willingly follows along, even when the developing action seems to defy common sense. Trevor makes the "willing suspension of disbelief" a real pleasure here. Mary Whipple
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only connect . . .,
Like Ian McEwan's ENDURING LOVE, this story begins with a single event whose implications reverberate for the rest of the novel. But Trevor's scale is both vaster and more intimate; and the life of his heroine, at once uneventful and devastating, is linked to that of her native land. Trevor's subject here is the reverse of E. M. Forster's: the failure to connect. But even as he builds a moving tragedy out of connections missed at first by accident and later through guilt or trauma, he is also forging new and unexpected links between people which amply demonstrate his miraculous power to console.
There are very few authors whom one trusts to lead one into dark places, with the assurance that there will be some beauty to be found there in the end. Trevor is emphatically one of them.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life of futility,
I am not a reader of novels, but there are certain authors whose works I never miss. One is William Trevor and the other V.S. Naipaul. Er..and oh, yes, Martin Amis.
The atmosphere Trevor is able to conjure in his writing is genial. A sadness permeates this tale like no other book I have read. Of course, the plot is really quite far fetched, but I suppose in setting the period beginning in 1921, he relies on the dearth of modern communications to explain the inability to contact Lucy's parents. On the other hand, the device of Lucy losing her clothes when swimming and for them to be found by a dog just when the family prepares to depart for England leasding to a jumped conclusion needs no period; it is scarcely credible at any time! Plot, however, is not one of my interests, but I do take great pleasure in Trevor's wonderfully written. painstaking prose. It says much that I read the book in two sittings!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of love and forgiveness,
William Trevor masterfully crafted a wonderful story about loss, love, guilt, and forgiveness, all packed into a short novella.
The story centers around an English family who faced animosity while residing in their historical home in Ireland. After a freak accident involving a innocent shooting, Captain Gault decided to take his wife and daughter out of Ireland. The day before their departure, the daughter Lucy, not wanting to leave her home, ran away. When Lucy's torn clothes were found, it was believed that she has died. Heartbroken, Captain Gault and his wife set sail for Europe, deciding never to return or have any ties to their homeland.
Lucy survived but was bundled wtih guilt of driving her parents to despair. For the remainder of her life, Lucy hopes for the return of her parents and seeks forgiveness from them. She believes a girl like her deserves no happiness. The most memorable scenes is the love story between Ralph, the neighbor's tutor, and Lucy. Lucy turned down proposal from the man she was madly in love with, because she has not yet been forgiven. Trevor wrote the most heart-wrenching prose, detailing how a man and a woman who professed their love for each other but are torn apart over a childhood folly.
Will Captain Gault and his wife ever return to Ireland? How will they react if they see that their daughter was still alive? Will Lucy ever able to reunite with her parents and seek forgiveness? Does Ralph still love Lucy after so many years? Will he return to Lucy? Read this novel if you want answers to these questions.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ONE OF HIS BEST WORKS,
It saddens me to see another reviewer call THE STORY OF LUCY GAULT a `failure' for William Trevor - I think it's one of his most beautiful, satisfying works. There is a gentle, patient quality to Trevor's writing - it seeps into the mind, heart and soul of the reader, emerging into a fullness that envelops and surrounds. The reader experiences the story as if surrounded by it. As in most of his other works, there are no frantic action sequences here - the pace is almost languid, but it is never uninvolving. I liked the comment by another reviewer that this novel is really an epic poem - it certainly has the language of that form, as well as the sense of the eternal about it.
In the story, we follow the life of Lucy Gault from her childhood through most of the rest of her life. At the outset of the book (in the 1920s), she lives with her parents in relative privilege and security on an estate in the Irish countryside. They are good people - but resented by those in the growing Irish independence movement for their English ties, and the fact that Lucy's father served in the English army. After a frightening incident in which arsonists attempt to burn down the Gaults' home with the family inside, the parents come to the painful decision that it would be best for them to close up the house and move to England until the `troubles' blow over. Lucy, being a nine year-old girl, is not consulted in this decision, and resents it greatly - and on the eve of the family's planned departure, she decides to run away and seek out the family's recently-dismissed maid as a refuge, thinking that the time it takes them to find her will give them the opportunity to change their mind about the move.
The nearby village is very dependent on the sea for much of its income - and knows first-hand and all too well that the sea is an unforgiving and powerful partner. The sight of women keening on the strand over husbands who have not returned from a stormy night is not an uncommon one. When Lucy disappears, and a couple of articles of her clothing (actually lost by her on earlier trips to the shore) are found in the subsequent search, the family and the village assumes that she has been taken by the sea, that she is dead. Plunged into grief over the loss of their only child, her parents accept their assumption as fact and determine that the only thing for them to do is to leave the country. They set out on a pilgrimage of healing and mourning that takes them through several countries in pre-WWII Europe, settling at last in Italy.
After Lucy's survival comes to light back in the village, repeated attempts are made to contact the parents - none of which meet with success. She is taken in by the old couple who have been assigned the task of caretakers for the estate in the absence of the Gaults, and she grows into an adult under their care. They love her dearly, and are wonderful surrogate parents to her.
I'll leave off describing any more of the plot here - I'll allow the reader to experience that firsthand.
The beauty of this book - as with all of Trevor's works - lies in his language and pace. Being of Irish descent himself, he has a loving first-hand knowledge of the Irish people. The characters depicted in the novel are not the crass stereotypes found in too many places - neither are they overly romanticized. They come across as simple, honest people - uneducated and unexposed to the world at large, perhaps - who try their best to live their lives to the fullest in the surroundings to which they were born. Their values are never preached - they are lived, which makes them all the more honorable. In the capturing of their speech patterns and cadences, Trevor is particularly successful - there are no catchphrases from ridiculous Irish jokes here, just everyday conversations made real by their honesty and simplicity.
It's a joy to read anything that William Trevor produces - and it's a joy to see that his creative powers are as strong as ever. His work is some of the best in 20th century literature - experience it and you'll see that's not an overstatement.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart-breaking search for forgiveness,
The Story of Lucy Gault, set in Ireland, starts with a warning gunshot fired by Captain Gault to scare away potential arsonists. Gault inadvertently hurts a boy's shoulder in the process. He is deeply remorseful and tries to make peace with the boy's family, with little success. Gault and his strong wife Heloise decide they must leave Lahardane, their wonderful home, in order to avoid future trouble. Daughter Lucy will not hear of it. She loves Lahardane, she loves the water, the sand, the abandoned dog by the strand. To convince her parents to stay, Lucy decides to run away from home. Following a series of tragic misunderstandings, Lucy is presumed dead. Her parents, no longer having an anchor that ties them to Lahardane, finally leave. In doing so, they inadvertently abandon Lucy and transfer her care to the house-servants Bridget and Henry.
As the years pass, Lucy continues to exist and float along waiting forever, for forgiveness that takes its sweet time coming. Trevor's novel deals with fleeing both in the figurative and literal sense. "It is our tragedy in Ireland that for one reason or another we are repeatedly obliged to flee from what we hold dear." says Trevor. The Gaults flee from memories, they travel all over Europe and "set out upon a pilgrimage, absolution sought for sins that varied in the telling." Lucy at the same time is tormented by one question. "How could I have run away from them?" she asks. The anguish that tears her apart makes her run from life, even reject love when she finds it.
William Trevor is a masterful writer of short stories-many of his have been published in the New Yorker. In this novel, he expertly paints a strong gripping story with just a few intense scenes. Almost every sentence in here does the job of twenty. In the end, when melodrama could easily have taken over, the silence between a now grown Lucy and her returned father is heartbreaking and real. "Say something", you want to yell at them as you drink in the anguish.
The Story of Lucy Gault is an understated marvel. In the end, Trevor writes: "Calamity shaped a life when, long ago, chance was so cruel. Calamity shapes the story that is told, and is the reason for its being." Calamity might have been the trigger for this story, but oh, what a story, and oh what a telling!
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The Story of Lucy Gault: A Novel by William Trevor (Paperback - August 26, 2003)