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A Bit on the Side

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  680 Ratings  ·  87 Reviews
William Trevor is truly a Chekhov for our age, and a new collection of stories from him is always a cause for celebration. In these twelve stories, a waiter divulges a shocking life of crime to his ex-wife; a woman repeats the story of her parents’ unstable marriage after a horrible tragedy; a schoolgirl regrets gossiping about the cuckolded man who tutors her; and, in the ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2004)
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Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourtCircle of Friends by Maeve BinchyIn the Woods by Tana FrenchDubliners by James JoyceTara Road by Maeve Binchy
Best Fiction Set in Ireland
287th out of 365 books — 324 voters
Cloud Atlas by David MitchellJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna ClarkeGilead by Marilynne RobinsonThe Amateur Marriage by Anne TylerThe Plot Against America by Philip Roth
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2004
49th out of 100 books — 34 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jan 08, 2011 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can a writer be both clinical and sympathetic toward his characters? I think he can and I believe Trevor has done both in this collection.

I've read other stories by Trevor that I've liked more, but I still liked this collection quite a bit. After finishing a story, I'd page back to see how he employs his craft, such deceptively simple details leading toward a cohesive whole.

I especially enjoyed the stories that alternated between two characters' viewpoints: "An Evening Out," "On the Streets" a
Jan 14, 2013 Tony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
The voice is still Trevor, a voice I love and one that soothes me; yet these pieces were surprisingly uneven or incomplete. Some sounded re-used. I loved, though, the first story, Sitting with the Dead, about two sisters who come visit when there's a death in the family. They make the tea, offer banalities, and the recent widow opens up.
Oct 22, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it
A BIT ON THE SIDE. (2004). William Trevor. ****.
This is a collection of twelve short stories by Trevor, most of which had appeared previously in ‘The New Yorker’ magazine. The author is a writer of analytic bent. Passions, feelings, and any raw emotions rarely make their way into his stories. That is not to say that they are not there, but they are there so that the characters can look and think about them objectively. These tales have little in common with each other, although extramarital or o
Oleg Kagan
Dec 21, 2010 Oleg Kagan rated it liked it
I was looking for some short stories to read and a librarian at the Redondo Beach Public Library exclaimed that "William Trevor is the best!" and that was enough for me. Out of the abundance of his work available on the shelf, I picked out A Bit on the Side, one of his newer collections.

Of all things, William Trevor certainly is gifted in his form. Writing a short story means creating lasting effects quickly and precisely. We do not get alot of details about the people in A Bit on the Side but
Sandra Lawson
Sep 03, 2011 Sandra Lawson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading William Trevor is like coming back home to a warm fire and a pair of comfy slippers. He is a gifted story teller, especially of short stories; less is more. He crafts his characters, both phsyically and psychologically, and their emotions, using the fewest number of words possible. He moves easily from Ireland to England, but his turns of phrase and use of idioms and vernacular leave the reader in no doubt where each story is set. In stories like 'Justina's Priest' he has no need to ...more
Aug 28, 2008 Moira rated it really liked it
Amazing collection of short stories. Trevor just gets better with age. Born in Southwest Cork, Trevor is equally at home with characters of every class and type, but he is especially good at describing the weak and powerless. His stories are heartbreaking and powerful in their deceptive simplicity. He is a master of point of view as he switches seamlessly from character to character exposing complex relationships and changes. Some of my favorite stories are in his other collections, but the ...more
Nov 11, 2009 David rated it really liked it
I love the subtlety in Trevor's writing. These stories are delicate, forming a doorway into moments when the main characters are at their most human.

This collection was recommended to me in particular for the child character portrayal in "Solitude." Trevor's technique in the child perspective is interesting. I like how when the narrator is a child all you get is matter of fact observations and recitation of judgments spouted by the adult characters, even when the main turning point of the story
Dec 20, 2007 Sarah rated it really liked it
A short story collection, so hard to sum up! Mostly set in Ireland in various historical periods, the stories are all well-crafted and self-contained. Most are driven entirely by character -- no plot surprises here -- and tend towards a darker view of the world.
Jul 29, 2009 Jesse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009
At its best, this collection draws a clear line from Joyce's Dubliners-- subtle character studies and achingly human moments. Even in its less perfect stories it's well-crafted, empathetic, and entertaining.
Feb 22, 2010 Wilhelmina rated it really liked it
Another good effort - lots of feelings are packed into these stories that read like novels.
Dec 01, 2016 Marty rated it it was amazing
One of the great short story writers. A joy to read Trevor.
Nov 29, 2011 Peter rated it it was amazing
Wow. I can't even begin to describe how thoroughly I enjoyed William Trevor's story collection A Bit on the Side. Trevor's prose is simply beautiful, and impeccably crafted. There's no clever wordplay here, no dizzying metaphors or whipsaw plot twists, no implausibly witty characters. Just everyday people living quiet, modest, lonely and often regretful lives in an Ireland of the modern era but which could easily have been fifty or a hundred years ago. The settings are vividly drawn--pubs which ...more
Chris Gager
Oct 08, 2014 Chris Gager rated it really liked it
Time for more of WT's perfection. I hope he wins that Nobel Prize soon as he's really getting up there in age. Alice Munro won last year so...

Sitting with the Dead - The death of a peckerhead... As usual Mr. T focuses in on stunted lives and bad decisions lived with. As usual he brings it home strong - a typical Trevor flourish: bitterness, regret, despair. Reminds me of Alice Munro's "Runaway"...

Traditions - I'd read this one before in the New Yorker. Many in the collection were first published
Carl R.
May 08, 2012 Carl R. rated it liked it
William Trevor has a reputation as a short story master, and A Bit On The Side does nothing in my mind to contradict his reputation. Each tale is a carefully constructed gem of simple, clear writing. Simple people in real life dilemmas who touch the heart as they work their way through their difficulties. And yet. And yet. Yet what? I ask myself.
Well, exquisite as Trevor’s writing craft is, it is often a bit too obvious. The carefully chosen scene. The details of the passing landscape or human
Nov 13, 2013 Robert rated it it was amazing
William Trevor’s collection of short stories, A Bit on the Side, is uniformly excellent, each story a minor masterpiece of narrative, character, theme and setting.
The closest comparison in English is Dubliners, by James Joyce, and not only because both writers are Irish. Joyce through sheer economy and prose music comes out ahead, but this doesn’t discredit Trevor much. Both writers focus on the private moments of private people, looking for some miracle of happiness or sadness in life, somethi
Sep 15, 2016 Diane rated it liked it
Shelves: ireland
Stories about lonely people told with Trevor's usual skill, yet some of theses seemed a bit slight.
To be honest, I bought this mostyl because of the title. "A bit on the side", that sounds lilke an illicit affair, and my love life at the time being once againg rather complicated, I could relate.

Also, I love short stories, and I hadn't read trevor yet.

The stories were ok. I liked most of them, but not all. Today, 3 months later, I can't really recall any of them, which proves that they weren't in any way outstanding, but that could also be due to the fact that at the time I also read the excel
Levan Tsutskiridze
Aug 21, 2015 Levan Tsutskiridze rated it it was amazing
უილიამ ტრევორი პირველად ორი წლის წინ წავიკითხე და ამის მერე მოკლე მოთხრობების ჩემი საყვარელი მწერალია. ტრევორი არ წერს არაჩვეულებრივი ადამიანების არაჩვეულებრივ თავგადასავლებზე. მისი ისტორიები პატარა ქალაქებში (ძირითადად ირლანდიის) მცხოვრები ჩვეულებრივი ადამიანების ისეთი ისტორიებია, რომლებიც ჩვენც კი გადაგვხვდენია თავს (ან თავისუფლად შეიძლება ასე მოხდეს), რადგანაც ისინი ცხოვრების განუყოფელი შემადგენლებია. მაგრამ რითიც არის ტრევორის მოთხრობები განსაკუთრებული, ეს ადამიანის ემოციების ზედმიწევნით ...more
Alaric Cabiling
Apr 20, 2015 Alaric Cabiling rated it it was amazing
A Bit On The Side shows its stripes without so much as attempting to disguise them. Focusing on fluid language and moments of visceral impact, the tragedies and sad circumstances that beset the characters in A Bit On The Side truly reveal the tenuous nature of fragile relationships. Whether caught on a crossroads or unwillingly facing the end of a tryst, the characters here are approachable and intimate in their struggle against loneliness. William Trevor's body of work is awe-inspiring but I ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

"If one were to pick a single word to characterize A Bit on the Side, it would be forlorn," writes Michael Dirda in the Washington Post. Here, as in his two dozen or so collections of short fiction and novels (see The Story of Lucy Gault, ****1/2 Jan/Feb 2003), Trevor introduces credible characters beset by hopelessness. But these Chekhovian stories, many previously published in The New Yorker, offer anything but hopeless reading. Trevor is a master of simple, quiet prose and psychological intui

Bill Keefe
Aug 24, 2010 Bill Keefe rated it really liked it
Twelve stories. All rich with the wisdom and frailty of life. Sitting with the Dead, Big Bucks and Solitude were my favorites, each read twice. Reading one of these stories would be like uncovering a gem; shining, clear, exemplary of the form and true to the human heart; but to have twelve stories, twelve trips into the lives of disparate characters connected by love, by hope, by emptiness and resignation is like feasting one's eyes on the whole picture, stepping back from the tile to the ...more
Aug 17, 2007 Joanna rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I hadn't read anything by this author before and picked up the paperback edition before going on vacation for two reasons: I liked the cover and it didn't take up much room in a backpack stuffed full of knitting. Happily my critera for choosing worked out pretty well.

I think the author did a good job of capturing the starkness and conflicts of small town living (all the stories are set in Ireland). Though all the setting were similar, each story was distinct as characters grappled with differnt
May 29, 2009 John rated it liked it
Shelves: literature, fiction
This is either the third or fourth book of Trevor's I have read, and they all have in common very detailed character development, plots that border on banal, and a thoughtful way of examining his characters - both their strengths and weaknesses. This collection of short stories I enjoyed somewhat less that the full length novels by Trevor (The Story of Lucy Gault and Three Early Novels) probably because their short length made for less robust character development, which as mentioned above is ...more
Mar 18, 2015 Eleanor rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, audio
It is a testament to the quality of William Trevor's writing that I stuck with the audio version of this book of short stories.

It was without doubt the worst narration I have ever come acorss - Josephine Bailey and Simon Vance gave us "Oirish" accents to beat Darby O'Gill and the Little People, mispronouncing both place names and even worse common Irish surnames, this really grated. Even the stories that weren't set in Ireland didn't come across with any warmth or passion.

I would wholeheartedly
Nov 01, 2011 Frank rated it it was amazing
Shelves: irish-authors
I refrained from buying this collection of short stories when it was first published in 2004 because I had read all the stories individually when they were first published in the New Yorker and Harper’s. But with the publication late last year of a compilation of his last four collections, I decided to reread them all. A Bit on the Side rounds out After Rain (1996), The Hill Bachelors (2000) and Cheating at Canasta (2007); I was very happy to find a nice, British-published hardcover first editio ...more
Aug 24, 2011 Kay rated it really liked it
This is the first of Trevor's work that I've read, although I've wanted to for a while. I will definitely pick up more. These stories were beautiful and interesting without being over the top like other short stories I've read. There was a sadness to a few of the characters and stories, but not in a depressing way, they just happened to be sad. Thinking back, a lot of the stories spanned a lifetime but had some focus on turning points and their effects and I enjoyed what Trevor did with ...more
Dec 11, 2015 Kristiana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Finding William Trevor is like finding a new friend. I had no idea who he was and now I don't know what I would do without him. He's a genius. His writing is so eloquent and well crafted. Each story is so unique and so well executed. Reading his stories is like unwrapping a present. There is an air of mystery, he is telling a story but you know there is so much more going on under the surface. He manages to weave flash backs and different time sequences effortlessly into his plots. He's amazing ...more
Aug 06, 2014 Scott rated it it was ok
This is a collection of short stories written in a very spare style.

'Your mother,' Fina said, and she watched him guessing that his mother was dead now. 'I'm sorry, John Michael,' she said. 'I'm sorry.'

Four of the stories were gratifying: "Sitting with the Dead," "Big Bucks," "The Dancing Master's Music," and "A Bit on the Side." The others I found to be less enjoyable.

There were elements of the writing style worthy of reflection and possible emulation.
Apr 05, 2014 Gordon rated it liked it
Shelves: school
This brief group of short stories reviews all the ranges of love, from undying love that persists in the face of ignorance to adulterous love that suddenly cannot exist when it is partially licit. The characters are well drawn and very human. The book builds in intensity and excellence, so hold on through the final stories. Some of them are like pressed violets, moments of beauty faintly carried over the breezes of our memory.
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William Trevor, KBE grew up in various provincial towns and attended a number of schools, graduating from Trinity College, in Dublin, with a degree in history. He first exercised his artistry as a sculptor, working as a teacher in Northern Ireland and then emigrated to England in search of work when the school went bankrupt. He could have returned to Ireland once he became a successful writer, he ...more
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