His stories are uncontaminated by principles of composition, or even by respectable generalities touching on how sentences ought to be made. His sentences are frequently in the passive voice; his verbs eschew the pursuit of energy. Overall, his prose is serviceable and ready to hand ... Most notably, his stories open with comments so blandly informational, so plain and unnoticeable, that they arouse no expectation and appear to promise little ... such flat and unhurried beginnings are subversions concealing a powerful slyness. Trevor’s stories traffic in plots, fated or willed, and hurtful. They may be coiled in pity, but they are never benign; their pity is unregenerative. Nor do they carry broad social vistas or axes to grind or hidden symbols ... in this small, final, seemingly quiet but ultimately volcanic book of stories, Trevor denies and defies — maybe spites — the promise of decline. As for volcanic: his people, at the finish of each turning of circumstance, are stunned and stilled, like the molds lava once made of the victims of Pompeii. And it is as if he will never run out of plots ... we honor him as the supreme master of his honest art.
[Trevor is] one of the finest writers of this and the last century ... There is deep strangeness in Trevor’s work, and these last stories are no exception. He is fascinated by odd minds and buried pasts, by secrets and regrets and disappointments. His characters are often caught in limbo ... Whispers, shadows, doubts, unknowns haunt the last pages of this great artist. At the same time he can be caustic, severe, and devastating.
Fate dominates the marginalized characters — children, the elderly, single middle-aged men and women — who are struggling with what Trevor referred to in a 1989 Paris Review interview as life’s 'meaninglessness.' But his humanistic storytelling redeems each of these lives without judgment ... Odd and unexpected relationships define many of the stories in the collection, often as love languishes somewhere in the narrative equation ... Trevor’s half-century’s worth of masterful short fiction is justifiably admired ... These exemplary Last Stories underscore that well-earned praise.
Death casts its shadow in much of Trevor’s work, including these final tales — several of which involve characters who have lost spouses or parents. Yet aging and mortality are still not the central focus. What stands out is the acceptance of loss, reduced circumstances, constraints and even pervasive loneliness. Not just resignation but peaceful acceptance, which is more positive ... Partway through this sobering valedictory collection filled with lonely people, the lyrics to the Beatles’ 'Eleanor Rigby' started playing in my head ... Loneliness, even more than mortality, may well be the aspect of the human condition that struck Trevor most forcefully in the end.
The 10 stories that make up the new and presumably final collection hit the familiar themes and possess an even grimmer sense of a postlapsarian world. Never guilty of unrelieved kindness toward his characters, Trevor seems overtly punitive in some of these stories ... The stories here are more spare than previous works—a few could be called etiolated—moving without Trevor’s usual color, detail or dialogue toward what we may call their message ... I hope that someday a great compendium of William Trevor’s stories will appear and that, when it does, there will still be readers who can appreciate their spareness and humor, the vast reach of their creator’s imagination into the lives of others, the finesse with which he shocks us, and his appreciation of our temporal lot, where nothing really works out except endurance and resignation.
...this is a typically gratifying effort, a volume of faultless prose and contemplative characters, and a fitting testament to his storytelling prowess ... Trevor’s fiction isn’t always teeming with hope, but I think he means something else here. The fact that we tell them at all — that’s the hopeful bit. His stories are suffused with longing and pain, beauty and humanity, and, as promised, they’re full of answers to timeless questions.
...these are melancholy tales of self-deceiving widows and widowers stymied by heartache and half-remembered tragedy, of long-dead marriages and fizzled-out affairs, fuelled by the discreet irony of a third person who stays close to the consciousness of his characters while enabling us to perceive what they can’t ... What keeps Trevor’s more sordid tales from melodrama is the debonair styling, fastidiously correct to the point of preciousness ... But it’s a mark of Trevor’s formidable craft that, taken individually, his stories not only don’t seem formulaic but regularly inspire awe ... This economy – compressing what a story is centrally about in the very first word of the very first page – is part of the cleverness of a writer who has done as much as anyone to shape our sense of what a short story is and what it should do.
Trevor’s final gift to us is a sublime collection ... These stories, like the rest of Trevor’s fiction, are peopled by all manner of professionals: a piano teacher, a picture-restorer, a publisher’s reader, a bank teller, a print-setter and so on. Often they are women. Trevor always enjoyed creating female characters simply because he wasn’t one. It is not always an easy trick to pull off for a male writer but Trevor succeeds because his women are not passive vessels but actively wrestling to take control of their lives. One minor criticism is that they are often uncommonly chaste ... Most of Trevor’s stories use third-person narrators and their inner voices summon pathos. Yet there is no hint of authorial condescension and the characters themselves are more likely to be stoic than sentimental ... In Trevor’s worlds disappointment and loss are sent to test his characters but not destroy them ... In a lesser writer’s hands revelation would be at the heart of such a story. But Trevor, who professed to never knowing how a story was going to end before finishing it, does something far more affecting by keeping the secret in play and insisting on the necessary messiness of life.
William Trevor's prose runs as clear as water yet tastes like gin. The Irish author was a master of understatement, depicting small lives with rangy precision. At its best his fiction earned comparisons with Chekhov; in turn, he influenced a generation of writers in Ireland and beyond ... In a book the author knew to be his last, the past is presented as textured and alive ... Trevor was and remains an author against whom other talents are measured. His work earns its place in the canon that 'time’s esteem' will keep alive.
Trevor writes as an adult for adults, expecting you to understand both life and prose; he is the subtlest purveyor of the partial truths we humans mostly live by ... There is much inner solitude in this world; happiness is temporary and conditional; often there has been damage a long way back, damage that cannot be mended ... this is the real Trevor. The story is in part a comparison of griefs ... This pattern of readerly doubt and misprision is typical of a William Trevor story. We will be presented with an event – an accident in the street, a death, a funeral, a chance meeting, an abandonment – that will widen ... But it doesn’t go where we predict, because, in a way we sense rather than observe, it has ceased to be a story. It has become life ... None but those with a complete mastery of fiction can walk this line.
Occasionally in the very best fiction, a line that at first glance appears insignificant leaps from the page, offering a deep insight into a character, and one such occurs here ... There are only a small number of writers whose work will endure long after they are gone but William Trevor, who should have become our fifth Nobel Laureate, is unquestionably one of those.
Despite the hopeless nature of things, a reader often finishes a Trevor story with a modicum of hope, a reminder of both the frailty and resilience of the human spirit ... As he deftly excavates his characters’ inner worlds, Trevor once again produces a sort of subtle alchemy on the page ... Like Alice Munro, Trevor magically compresses these private narratives, advancing through entire lifetimes in the mere space of 10 or so pages ... These 10 stories satisfy on many levels — the masterful craft, the emotional precision, the agile interplay between the past and present.
A succession of fine novels and stories established him as a master of fictional nuance. Acutely sensitive to vulnerability, he delineated unassertive fortitude with steady expertise ... Colourfully idiomatic speech is caught with alert and often funny accuracy. Telling detail is unerringly pinpointed ... Delicacy of touch was his forte. Variations on his persisting motifs — polite stoicism, life’s injustices, regret at missed opportunities, the need for decency and kindness — are rendered with muted finesse.
...his tales are full of quiet ambiguity and subtle nuance. They don’t shout their subject matter. They take sidelong glances at it ... Last Stories, a slender collection of 10 tales, serves a modest capstone to the Anglo-Irish writer’s long and acclaimed career ... There seems to be no walk of life that’s unfamiliar to him. He’s at home with both the provincial and the urbane. His eye for strength of character is as sharp and sympathetic as his eye for folly ... Most of the narratives in this collection rank with the finest tales of this master of the form and remind us of why he will be missed.
The situations behind Trevor’s...beautifully composed stories revolve around themes of personal cruelty, romantic and marital heartbreak, lover betrayal, and even violent death, and he has long established himself as a writer of great charity for the ordinary person and sympathy for the hard knocks of unheralded lives ... Trevor’s characterizations step to the fore as the major aspect of his writerly genius ... Trevor will long reign as a literary master.
There was no human wallpaper in the story, instead a frieze of 3-D figures ... I was astonished by his batting average, and by his slugging percentage. Most of the stories were hits, and all the hits were for extra bases ... When I think about these stories after reading them, I can recall interesting things.
There are ten stories in this collection. The recurring themes of loneliness, death, betrayal, delusion, and loss might make them sound rather bleak but his spare prose and concise narratives avoid melodrama or repetition. All the main characters struggle with and never conquer their yearnings, which are challenged or thwarted through singular moments of quiet drama. And, despite there being no radical or titillating action, what lingers in the reader's mind long after reading feels like reverberations of aftershocks ... With endings, an abiding hallmark of a Trevor story is how he opens up various possibilities for a character's arc early on and yet, when the ending arrives, it is satisfyingly inevitable. That said, some of the endings in this collection are left vague, almost framed as potential new beginnings for the next momentous life event that readers can contemplate what-ifs about ... There are many such earned rewards from a slow, close reading of a Trevor story. This is why he is a writer's writer. Each of his stories can reveal clever tricks of the trade. Each can be a mini masterclass in the art of the form because he compels us to slow down, stop, and observe carefully the quotidian, everyday moments that we mostly rush past in real life.
This spare collection of 10 stories by the late Trevor (The Story of Lucy Gault) might be too bleak if its darkness weren’t skillfully counterbalanced by sly hints of humor and understated compassion. The stories are sharp and concise, containing whole lives in the span of just a few pages. The book as a whole has an elegiac tone, with death figuring heavily in many of the stories ... Readers familiar with Trevor, who died in 2016, will find satisfying closure, and those new to his work will find reason to go back and explore his previous books.
The stories themselves make up a grim group, dealing in theft, extortion, and infidelity ... As always, Trevor navigates the rough seas of human relations with a new angle, fresh language, deep sympathy, and uncanny insight.