If there is a theme running through William Trevor’s brilliant new collection, it is reticence. Again and again, lives are altered, or ruined – or, less often, saved – by things that are left unsaid. Such silence goes against the grain of a culture obsessed by disclosure and personal revelation, but that is not to say that Trevor is old-fashioned, much less squeamish. Within these twelve stories are many crimes: the murder of a prostitute, a child hit by a car whose driver does not stop, a youth beaten to death in a suburban garden. Terrible things happen, or threaten to happen. Two nine-year-old boys push a dog out to sea on a lilo; a paedophile takes a young girl – ‘her bare, pale legs were like twigs stripped of their bark’ – for a walk by a canal; a tramp blackmails an innocent priest.
I was reminded of Werner Herzog’s gruelling masterpiece Grizzly Man, a documentary about an eccentric wildlife cameraman who was torn to death by bears. Towards the end of the film, Herzog puts on a pair of headphones and listens to the actual soundtrack of the man’s death; the cinema audience