Blasts from the Past: The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor (2002)

Cover image This is the latest in a series of occasional posts featuring books I read years ago about which I was wildly enthusiastic at the time, wanting to press a copy into as many hands as I could.

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog you’ve probably twigged that I’m a fan of Irish writing, an admiration that I’ve had for quite some time, as you’ll see from the publication year for William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault.

One night in 1921 – Ireland recently partitioned into the Protestant dominated North and the Catholic Republic – three men appear in the grounds of Lahardane to set fire to the house. Springing to the defence of his English wife and their daughter, Lahardane’s Protestant owner fires his shotgun meaning only to frighten the trespassers but wounding one of them. The young man’s family are deaf to Everard’s pleas for forgiveness. For their own safety the Gaults must leave Ireland but eight-year-old Lucy can’t bear to go. She runs away, determined to make her parents stay. Believing Lucy to be dead, they turn their backs on their beloved home and when she’s found alive, can’t be traced. Lucy’s life becomes one of atonement for the wrong she feels she has done her parents. Written in quietly elegant, graceful prose, this achingly sad novel is about chance, forgiveness and redemption.

Trevor’s writing seems to me to offer a template for the best of Irish writing – spare yet lyrical with an emotional intensity that is never melodramatic. I’m happy to say he was such a prolific writer that I’ve still not read all he’s written. If you’d like to read more about his work both Cathy at 746Books and Kim at Reading Matters are also ardent fans and have spent 2023 celebrating him.

What about you, any blasts from the past you’d like to share?

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26 thoughts on “Blasts from the Past: The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor (2002)”

  1. It’s a long time since I’ve re-read anything (so much to read, so little time), but I happened to notice this on my shelves only yesterday. Perhaps it’s a A Sign. Or a big hint anyway.

  2. One of my all time favourites but it broke my heart, I’ve never been able to reread it as a consequence, although I often think of it. Stunning writing. I shall have a nice morning wallowing in the memory of it – thanks!
    Incidentally I’m just about to start the Penguin Collected Short Stories of William Trevor – a daunting and delightful 1261 page prospect.

    1. My pleasure, Kerry! H took this one on holiday after I’d read it despite my warning him that it was one of the saddest novels I’ve ever read.

      That sounds like a brilliant project for the next year.

  3. My parents were always big fans of William Trevor but apart from a couple of short stories, which were great, I have yet to get stuck in properly. Thanks for the recommendation. Noted!

  4. Thanks for the shout out. This was the very first William Trevor book I read way back when it first came out. I really ought to reread it… i remember being devastated that first time but now I’m so much more familiar with his work (I have now read every novel he ever wrote) I’d be keen to see what tropes and common themes I recognise.

    1. Devastated is the word. Proof, if it were needed, that understatement is much more effective than the opposite.

      That would be so interesting. Perhaps you could write a post comparing your reactions.

  5. I haven’t started on William Trevor yet but I must because I’m definitely missing out! You say you loved it first time round, do you love it as much with re reads?

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