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This review is taken from PN Review 52, Volume 13 Number 2, November - December 1986.

DISPOSSESSED William Trevor, The News from Ireland and other stories (The Bodley Head) £9.95

The short story is not, and probably never has been, a place fit for heroes. When an entire fictional life is seen through the prism of a single event, and that event is fleshed as sparsely and tautly as the genre demands, then the life thus refracted seems - almost inevitably, and in spite of the finest actions - a sad affair. The central figures of novels can hardly help being borne by the river of words that swirl about them into the heroic sphere. No matter how wretched or insignificant their lot, heroes they become: Leopold and Molly Bloom were both Dubliners, after all, until rendered epic by the Joycean torrent. Had they remained Dubliners, had that June day been sketched about them with a few deft pencil strokes, then they, too, would have had sadness clinging to them, their lives limited, poignant, lost. They would have been - as are William Trevor's characters - dispossessed of all that might have been, left only with the simple way things were. While the novel explores our hopes in this respect, the short story reveals our fears neatly and mercilessly.

Not that there is any shortage of hoping in The News from Ireland. Everyone is at it: the butler in the title story, hoping that the English relatives who have arrived to claim the Irish estate where he lives and works will go away again, leaving the place to crumble properly back into the clay; Mrs Nancy Simpson ...


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