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Cheating at Canasta: Stories Hardcover – October 18, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The 12 stories of Trevor's latest collection blend an orchestra conductor's feel for subtlety with a monsignor's banishment of moral ambiguity. In The Dressmaker's Child, a 2006 O. Henry Award winner, the future seems predetermined for rural mechanic Cahal, until the preteen daughter of the village dressmaker runs at his car with a stone in her hand. Men of Ireland has the elderly Father Meade being visited by Donal Prunty, 52, a onetime altar boy gone derelict with the years. Father Meade, complicit (or perhaps not) in Prunty's undoing, learns that the erosion of memory extirpates nothing and only compounds one's regrets. The widower Mallory of the title story finds that mortality does not quite do away with the need for role playing and reverse strategies in marriage. And when Mollie of At Olivehill is at last goaded by her sons into selling her deceased husband's woodlands, the earthmovers appear with the alacrity of enemy tanks, altering her internal landscape as well. The book as a whole recalls Joyce's Dubliners in making melancholia a powerful narrative device. (Oct.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics enthusiastically greet any new collection by William Trevor. Cheating at Canasta is no exception, with many reviewers calling it one of the best of Trevor’s 12 short story collections. Two of the stories have already won the O. Henry Award, though the volume contains seven unpublished stories as well. New readers will find it a fitting introduction to his work, and longtime fans will find another bleak delight. Reviewers were particularly impressed that the 80-year-old Trevor remains both timeless and timely, importing his characteristic style into an Ireland that has greatly changed since he started writing. The only significant disagreement over Cheating at Canasta was which of its dozen stories is the best.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (October 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670018376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670018376
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,761,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Werner Cohn on January 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The last story in this wonderful collection has a French title, "Folie à Deux," but it is about an Irishman who happens to spend a few days in Paris in pursuit of his hobby, philately, stamp collection. The philatelist is also a bit of a philanderer, but that is no more than part of the backdrop. Our hero has a modest meal in a bistro, and perhaps more than a modest amount of alcohol. More backdrop. And then it happens. His childhood reappears. I would not dream of giving away just how this occurs, but I can say that the hour or so that I spent reading this marvelous story cast a spell over my day.

And so it is with the rest of this new collection. Readers of the "New Yorker" will no doubt rediscover old friends among the other stories, but this will hardly diminish the intense enjoyment of rereading.

This volume confirms it once again: there is no greater writer in our day than William Trevor.
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Format: Hardcover
I was convinced long ago that William Trevor is a master of the short story. I so enjoy luxuriating in his collections that I now intentionally pass by the occasional story in "The New Yorker" in favor of the delayed but ever-so-greater gratification of an entire volume of stories every three or four years. The latest collection of a dozen Trevor short stories is CHEATING AT CANASTA. After reading the first three stories, I feared that perhaps Trevor was slipping a tad. While quite accomplished technically, they did not touch my inner being. But the remaining stories put any such fears to rest. Once again, Trevor proves himself a master of the short story in English.

And once again, I marvel over how Trevor seems to be able to write about anything, about anyone -- to weave a story out of the unlikeliest stray rags and scraps of yarn. Here, many of the characters are from the working class or lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. Those who are not nonetheless are not among society's glamorous or smug. None of Trevor's characters (here or as far as I remember from his other works) would ever have expected their lives, public or private, to be worthy of the attention of a great writer or legions of sensitive readers. They are common, yet in Trevor's renderings they become uncommon.

A theme shared by all these stories is deception, even between two seemingly very close people. Yet the tone rarely is one of anger. Instead, it is one of gentle ruefulness, tinged with melancholy, at times approaching a world-weariness. The narrative is sparse, almost minimalistic. Yet Trevor's voice is so assured, so authoritative, but without ever being overbearing.

In truth, I can't imagine anyone who appreciates literate short stories not relishing the stories of William Trevor, including CHEATING AT CANASTA.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Life as it was lived before the ubiquitous use of anti-depressants. No Prozac in the water system here. Read and be enveloped by the emotion, the heart-wrenching reality of life in the raw. You can feel the sorrow, the embrace of an ineluctable reality, the inescapable path of Destiny. Feel the bleak damp in your bones, the drizzle on your skin. Smell the peat. These stories will linger with you for a long time. Another masterpiece by Ireland's favorite son.
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Format: Hardcover
Not one to waste words, William Trevor's sentences are so concise that they're not the most easy to read as so much information is packed in. His pithy prose demands full concentration from the reader; glean it over with a cursory eye and important nuances are lost. But when you do pay attention, huge rewards await you.

This collection of 12 tales draws together a myriad of characters:
a 73 year-old almost abandoned wife grapples with the omnipresence of her husband's lover, the not-so clandestine relationship kept oppressively alive by the lover's best friend in the most eerie vicarious fashion in 'Old Flame';

a man meets an old friend who was irreparably damaged by their complicit cruel act of childhood folly, and is loathe to face what his relatively unscathed self implies about his own humanity in 'Folie a Deux';

a pair of middle-aged siblings grapple with their bullying yet symbiotic relationship that is built largely on 'Faith', misplaced or otherwise;

a lonely teenage girl meets her online acquaintance,with near disastrous results, but she seems none the wiser from this episode.

Many other characters dot the rest of the stories, and their presence linger on way after Trevor writes the last word about them.
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Format: Hardcover
These stories are very well written and Trevor's reputation is deserved. My one reservation is the fact that the stories are somewhat down beat and one just longs for a story illuminated by joy and peace but alas there are none of that type in this collection. I will make some observations on each of the stories, really to try and distill down my own reactions to stories:

(I) The Dressmaker's Child: a very strange story about a bond beginning to form between a man who accidentally knocks down and kills a wild child (daughter of an off-beam mother) and the subsequent incipient relationship that begins to form betweem the man and the mother. Really not sure I understood this story.

(II)The Room: a disturbing story about a woman married to a man, who was accused but not convicted of murder and her suspicious of his part in the murder and her trying to come terms with this over many years. The story resonates and disturbs.

(III) Men of Ireland: A tramp returning from England to Ireland after 23 years and his attempt to capitalise on the scandals in Ireland by soliciting money from a retired priest through insinuating the priest had tried to press drink on him when he was a young altar boy. The priest gives in through a kind of shared shame. A disturbing story.

(IV) Cheating at Canasta: a man returning to venice in response to a wish made by his wife before dementia took hold of her. I was failry neutral about this story.

(V) Bravado: another distrubing story, this time about a lad trying to impress his girlfriend by beating another lad on the way home from a party with fatal consequents.
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