In this volume, I will briefly illustrate the themes and style of William Trevor's last ten stories, which showcase his mastery of the short form. The main theme that runs through these stories is the family, in its various forms and complexities; but Trevor also touches on religion, another recurring topic in his previous collections. In his stories, Trevor often either criticizes the institution of religion (for example, in \"Of the Cloth\" in The Hill Bachelors (2000), \"Justina's Priest\" in A Bit on the Side (2004), or \"Men of Ireland\" in Cheating at Canasta (2007)) or he explores a more personal and mystical attitude towards faith (as in \"The Virgin's Gift\" (The Hill Bachelors) or \"The Dressmaker's Child\" (Cheating at Canasta). In Last Stories, \"Giotto's Gift\" combines both aspects, as the amnesiac painter of religious subjects is suspected of being a paedophile, while he himself is oblivious to sex or money, and only cares about his painting of angels.Some of the stories in this collection deal with the theme of death, either as a looming presence or as an aftermath of loss. In \"The Piano Teacher's Pupil\", a middle-aged woman who lives with her crippled cousin finds solace in teaching a gifted young boy, even though he steals from her. In \"Mrs Crasthorpe\", a widow who feels liberated by her husband's demise tries to find a new partner, but ends up being rejected by a man she meets at a funeral. In \"The Unknown Girl\", a young woman who works as a cleaner at a hotel dies in a hit-and-run accident, and her death haunts the conscience of the driver who fled the scene.
Other stories explore the theme of betrayal, either within families or between lovers. In \"An Idyll in Winter\", a former tutor rekindles his affair with his former pupil, who is now married to his brother. In \"Taking Mr Ravenswood\", a young woman who works as a receptionist at a solicitor's office seduces an elderly client who is about to inherit a fortune. In \"Making Conversation\", a married woman who suffers from depression has an affair with a man she meets at a support group.
Throughout these stories, Trevor displays his remarkable skill in creating vivid and complex characters, often with just a few strokes of detail. He also demonstrates his mastery of dialogue, which reveals the hidden emotions and motivations of his characters. He uses irony and humor to lighten the mood of his stories, but also to expose the absurdity and cruelty of life. He writes with compassion and empathy, but also with detachment and objectivity. He leaves many questions unanswered and many endings unresolved, inviting the reader to imagine the possible outcomes and consequences of his characters' actions.In the last two stories of the collection, Trevor returns to his native Ireland and explores the theme of memory and identity. In \"Giotto's Angels\", an elderly painter who suffers from amnesia is accused of being a paedophile by a local priest, who wants to get rid of him. The painter, who only remembers his name and his passion for painting religious scenes, is defended by a young woman who works at a nursing home. In \"The Women\", a young girl who was adopted by an English couple discovers that her biological mother is still alive and living in Ireland. She decides to visit her, hoping to find out more about her origins and her father.
These stories, like the rest of the collection, are marked by Trevor's distinctive voice and style. They are written in clear and elegant prose, with a keen sense of place and atmosphere. They are rich in symbolism and imagery, often drawing on art and literature as sources of inspiration. They are also full of surprises and twists, which challenge the reader's expectations and assumptions. They are, in short, the work of a master storyteller, who left us with a final and precious gift. 0efd9a6b88