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Fools of Fortune

william section daughter past

a novel by William Trevor, published in 1983. Divided into six sections of decreasing length, the novel is narrated alternately by William, a son of the Protestant Irish gentry, and by Marianne, his English cousin and lover. The third and sixth sections, told in the third person, focus on their daughter. The first section begins in 1918 with William relating the history of his family, the Quintons, who support Home Rule in spite of their Protestant heritage. Through the vicissitudes of local politics, William's father and two young sisters are murdered in an act of revenge, and his sensitive English mother succumbs to despair and alcoholism. The burden of tragedy, and the compulsion to avenge himself, form William's future. In the second section, Marianne tells the story of her adolescent love for William, which leads to pregnancy, separation from her family and roots, and the eventual recognition of the weight of retribution that lies at the core of her life, so closely intertwined through William with the destinies of the Quintons. Whereas in the first section Trevor uses William's voice to create a spare, evocative portrayal of the period described and its context, the second section, tinged with romantic lyricism, has the cadences and resonance of a traditional Celtic ballad. This skilled use of stylistic and narrative diversity is repeated in the third section in which the larger implications of the tragic past are revealed. The brutal reports of William's act of revenge, discovered by his daughter Imelda, who has never known her father, drive her to madness. This sacrifice to the past paves the way for the eventual reconciliation of William and Marianne, who are united in their old age. Their daughter, whose mental affliction is seen by the locals as a gift of healing, is the symbol both of their bond with the Ireland of their past, and their quiet integration into the Ireland of today.

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