William Trevor, born William Trevor Cox Biography
(1928– ), born William Trevor Cox, The Old Boys, The Boarding House, The Love Department
Anglo-Irish novelist and short-story writer, born in Mitchelstown, Co. Cork, educated at Trinity College, Dublin. His early novels were a combination of allegory, farce, and acute social observation, and displayed a singular sensitivity to the plight of the old, the lonely, and the ill-adjusted, particularly women. In novels such as The Old Boys (1964), The Boarding House (1965), The Love Department (1966), and The Children of Dynmouth (1976), institutions such as beach resorts, boarding schools, and hostels serve as miniature representations of the larger world. A wide range of characters, usually drawn from the English middle and lower middle classes, are portrayed in these and novels such as Mrs Eckdorfat O'Neill's Hotel (1969), Miss Gomez and the Brethren (1971), Elizabeth Alone (1973), and Other People's Worlds (1980). With Fools of Fortune (1983), The Silence in the Garden (1988), the short-story collection The News from Ireland (1986), and the novella Nights at the Alexandra (1987), Trevor reclaims the grand tradition of the Anglo-Irish novel. He shares with Elizabeth Bowen an insider's knowledge of the great mansions and the fading traditions of the Irish gentry, but reverses nostalgia and romanticism to reveal a world in the terminal stages of decline. His protagonists are burdened with the weight of their own historical guilt, and determined to make reparation by finding their appropriate place in Ireland's changing social structure. Trevor's stories often have the impact of short novels; his later collections employ a variety of European settings, particularly Italy. The development of narrative technique demonstrated in his novels is matched by an increasing mastery of style; though his fiction retains a strong link with traditional forms, its exquisitely worked, subtly experimental surfaces employ the collagist, fragmented modes of Modernism to great effect. Two Lives (1992) consists of two novels, Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria, telling of the importance of fiction in the solitary imagination of lonely women; this, and the prize-winning Felicia's Journey (1994), in which a simple Irish woman migrates to England, considerably enhanced Trevor's popular reputation as a man of letters. The Collected Stories (1992) bear witness to his consistent proficiency in the short form.