William Trevor, the much-admired writer of more than thirty novels and collections of short stories, died in 2016. He would have been ninety this year, and to remember and celebrate him this collection of ten last stories has been published, a final tribute to one of the acknowledged masters of the form for over half a century. They are perhaps not all his strongest, but they nevertheless are a reminder of how very good he was, and how, while writing quietly of modest, often damaged lives in undramatic settings, he explored the most powerful and darkest emotions: goodness and wickedness, joy and grief.
There is pure pleasure, too, to be found in his limpid prose and narrative skill. He makes springing a surprise seem easy, as when, in ‘The Piano Teacher’s Pupil’, the apparently perfect child prodigy who brings new happiness to a solitary, ageing piano teacher turns out to be a kleptomaniac. Unable and unwilling to risk confrontation with the boy, when he suddenly disappears she finds herself questioning the father who, earlier in life, indulged her and the lover who let her down. ‘Had her father’s chocolates been an inducement to remain with him in his house, a selfishness dressed up? Had the man who’d deceived his wife deceived his mistress too, since deception was a part of him?’ Trevor does not go in for explanations or neat happy endings; years later the boy reappears, but the mystery of his behaviour, as well as her reaction, remains.
With this story, Trevor conveys a truth that runs through all his work: art, including writing, may be vital, even consoling, but beauty cannot mask, let alone resolve, human failure and cruelty. In his fictional worlds, apparently well-intentioned people living quiet lives in respectable surroundings do each other great