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My House in Umbria

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  395 ratings  ·  59 reviews
Mrs. Emily Delahunty-a mysterious and not entirely trustworthy former madam-quietly runs a pensione in the Italian countryside and writes romance novels while she muses on her checkered past. Then one day her world is changed forever as the train she is riding in is blown up by terrorists. Taken to a local hospital to recuperate, she befriends the other survivors-an elderl ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published March 15th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published 1991)
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3.50  · 
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 ·  395 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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Jan 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
My House in Umbria is the first Trevor novella I had a bit of trouble engaging with the plot and characterization. Mrs Emily Delahunty, a 56-year-old woman with a less than respectable past, had re-invented and installed herself in an enchanting villa by the Italian countryside. Here she ran a pensione business with the help of her servant, Quinty, whose acquaintance hailed back to her life at the Café Rose in Ombubu, Africa, and who knew about her checkered origins. Perhaps as an escape from he ...more
May 18, 2010 rated it did not like it
Do not confuse this book with books such as "Under the Tuscan Sun" or "A Year in Provence." This book, although set in the Italian countryside, is really a character study. The narrator is one of several survivors of a bombed train car who, under some plot contrivance, all gather to recuperate at the titled House in Umbria. This book demands all of your concentration as the narrator is given to digressions which may, or may not, be relevant to the plot line. Do not assume that the fact that Magg ...more
Jul 27, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: library_books
I put this one down part way through, not really picking it up for several days. So, when I went to finish the story, there were details that I didn't fully remember. Not a deal-breaker as such since the story tone changed Midway through, but still was a slight issue for me.

The only character I found not very likeable was the girl's uncle who comes from America to claim her. Also, at that point the main character landlady becomes less likeable herself. On the other hand, his appearance picks the
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is really a 4+, as in story = 4; writing = 5. William Trevor's skill in unwinding a story is unparalleled, and his use of language is beyond artful. Damaged, tragic people always populate Trevor's works, but this time around I found it hard to respond sympathetically to their trials. Perhaps that's a fault of the reader rather than the writer! In any case, I look forward to reading more of William Trevor's works.
Daniel Polansky
A writer of romances takes in the survivors of a train bombing in what seems like (but is not) a sweet-natured meditation on loss and love. Mean, clever, strange, a curveball coming in high and fast, be careful you don't get plunked. By which I mean you should probably read this book.
Jan 09, 2011 rated it liked it
"A garden should have little gardens tucked away inside it. It should have alcoves and secret places, and paths that make you want to take them even though they don't lead anywhere. What grows well, cherish. What doesn't, you throw out." (118)

B and I are having a couple days long conversation about 'hard women' -- alice munro, lorrie moore and the other unflinching girls who remember and list the offenses against their characters. Munro has some softness to her -- she writes the occasional love
Judy O. Kirk
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this novella, easily read on a cold winter day. The writing is stellar, the characters well rounded and the plot intriguing. The movie featured lots of Italian countryside and Maggie Smith as the very complex inn keeper.
Apr 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Read this off and on these past two weeks and took it with me for my weekend in LA. The landscapes take me back to one of the prettiest areas of Italia. Yet, if you're looking for an inspiring tale of olive groves and rolling hillsides, you will not find it. It's about strangers, adapting after a horrible accident and what transpires under a house in Umbria.
Joy H.
Added 11/19/11.
I did not read this book but watched the movie adaptation instead via a Netflix DVD:
"My House in Umbria" (TV 2003)

There's a wonderful film review (by David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle) at:
"Very little seems lost in this lovely adaptation of William Trevor's 1991 short novel, premiering Sunday on HBO, thanks in no
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: november-2011
I love William Trevor and his understated way of letting us get up close to his characters and yet maintain a certain aura around him he never disappoints me in that he can make the mundane look and feel ever so real and true to life in all it's pain and glory.

This novel was no exception. We meet some wonderful human characters wide open to their flaws, who are thrown together in life through a terrorist attack on a train they were all traveling on. They come together in a house in Umbria to try
Aug 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This short, delicately written novel contains a big story full of abandonment, incest, prostitution, a bombed train, alcoholism, and deceit, but blink and you'll miss it. The voice of the narrator starts out so sure and is so inviting that it's easy to miss hints that her perspective isn't necessarily trustworthy. Her slow unspooling of information about herself, paired with her disintigration, culminates without high drama and goes out on a note of wistfulness. Trevor's writing is balanced and ...more
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012, bookstore-finds
I had such high hopes for this book. It seemed so good from the blurb on the back. But he problem is, I found it rather meandering, and I couldn't really understand what the author was getting at. What is this book really about? I'm still unsure. Plus I started to really dislike Mrs Delahunty and the way she forced herself on Mr Riversmith. It was uncomfortable to read. Perhaps that was the point, but it was a major turn-off for me, especially as she felt she was doing nothing wrong. A strange b ...more
Apr 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-2014
I am now officially a William Trevor fan. This book, however, is pretty close to the bone just now, dealing with the survivors of what seems to be a terrorist bombing on a train in Italy. Like Lucy Gault, the main character is a solitary woman with damage in her past. Trevor peels off layers as memories surface.
I found it well written and intruiging however at times I got confused. I'm not sure if this has to do with the writing specificly or Mrs Delahunty as the narrator since she obviously has some issues.
Jul 20, 2017 rated it liked it
My House in Umbria by William Trevor, adapted for The BBC
8 out of 10

Notes and thoughts on other books are available at:

- and

My House in Umbria is a remarkable story and an excellent adaptation for The BBC.
Emily Delahunty is the main character in this narrative and the narrator, at least in the version that I listened to.

She is a complex personage.
On the one hand she has extraordinary capabilities, an astonishing ability to read
Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: brit-lit
I read this book as a part of Two Lives, published in combination with another Trevor's novel, Reading Turgenev, which explains some of the comparisons made in me review.
I finished the second novel in the book today and I loved it even more thatn the first one. Or, more accurately, it is the combination that makes the Two Lives duo particularly praiseworthy for me.
My House in Umbria is so steadily told, its a has a rhythm of its own, and quite a different, slower pace, than Re
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, irish-authors
I liked the book a lot. 3.5 stars. The story is simple and told effortlessly. We have Mrs. Delahunty who has a house in Umbria and she is the narrator. She is the victim of an attack (unclaimed by anyone) of a timed device while on a train. There is loss of life and soon after the surviving victims come to stay at her house in Umbria.

William Trevor is a beautiful storyteller and I enjoyed the book a great deal. The ending however left me a little dissatisfied. Otherwise a lovely book!
Jennifer Curley
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I would actually give this 3.5 stars and 4 stars for most of the book. I loved the writing and the mysteries that are slowly revealed about the main character. The end just got a little strange with her behavior, but overall I really enjoyed this short book and liked it much better than Reading Turgenev.
Aug 04, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I bought this book on a whim because of the author and the setting. I have friends and relatives who've lived in Umbria and I'd hoped to expand my imagination of what it is like there. I enjoyed the story, but the focus was more on the characters' relationships with one another than on the setting. I guess I'll just have to go over there and experience Umbria in person one day.
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, 2018
What an interesting character study, and written with such balance and poise, too. The end really made me itch with discomfort even while the protagonist made herself more pathetic, more tragic. Beautiful portraiture all round
Aug 10, 2018 rated it liked it
This was another book I just never fell in love with. It felt as if the writer/narrator was bit distant and aloof. Not what I was hoping for at the time.
Michael Pennington
Dec 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mysterious and thoughtful.
Jay Cardam
Feb 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I teeter between 3 and 4 stars on this...It certainly was not what I expected after having seen the movie. The movie was touching, tender, a warm blankie in front of a fire. The book however has some of that, but also the the digging around in the the mind of the storyteller with a two-tined fork...and quite an unreliable narrator she is!

As writing, I find the work excellent, as a reader, a bit disappointing. Do not expect the same ending in the book as in the movie.

In the end this, rather than
Melissa Prange
Jul 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
After a terrorist attack on a train, three survivors return with Mrs. Delahunty to her house in Umbria. The survivors include a German, an old man, and a little girl. Each have lost loved ones in the attack and each are attempting to work their way back to life as they recuperate at Mrs. Delahunty’s home. The two men are rejuvenated by caring for the little girl, but, unfortunately, all of their lives are thrown back into upheaval when the girl’s uncle arrives—intending to return to America with ...more
Lottie Hennegan
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Easy to mistake this, at first sight, for a comforting read about the good life in Umbria — which must account for some of the low ratings it has achieved here. Trevor understands how the title will set expectations: one settles down anticipating la dolce vita and instead is led into some very dark places. It is about suffering and the damaged, survival and, perhaps, redemption.

The narrator, Mrs Delahunty, is a wonderfully unreliable narrator, slowly unwinding as the tale progresses. Through hin
Aug 05, 2010 rated it liked it
I had really high expectations for this book and must admit that I was somewhat disappointed. While the length of the book (150 pages) did not seem a daunting task for me in the beginning, I found it harder and harder to pick this up and want to read it. This book is more of a character study of an old washed out romance novelist Emily Delahunty. Throughout most of the book I found her to be completely fascinating while at others, I just wanted to smack her. I do love the way that the plot revol ...more
Mar 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is set in Umbria, Italy at a somewhat rundown home that Emily Delahunty rents to tourists. This time her lodgers are survivors from a terrorist attack on a train. Emily generously offers them a place to convalesce and grieve. Brought together as strangers, as they begin to recover their layers are revealed.

Emily, a romance novelist and a woman with a past is longtime friends with Quinty who takes care of her home and the business side of things. Aimee, a young girl recovering from the
Louise (A Strong Belief in Wicker)
My first William Trevor, and I'm keen to read more of his work after this first taste. I read this just a few weeks after watching the movie on tv (which I loved), so I had Maggie Smith's voice and image really reading the story in my head. Which isn't all bad. I enjoyed the book overall but did find it confusing at times when he would flip flop back and forward between past, present and dream. Sometimes it was really obvious and that's fine, other times I had to read it several times to try and ...more
Aug 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
This was one of the most depressing books I have ever read…..and I have read my share of depressing books. I was enticed into thinking that this was one of Trevor's less depressing books by the cute Maggie Smith picture and the scenery on the cover. But it was very bleak and while Trevor is a beautiful writer, and the narrative voice is certainly amazing, it was not worth the dirge like conclusions. Is there another Trevor book to try that is not totally disheartening? I can take negative but no ...more

blurb - A train journey in Italy sparks devastation, but a new purpose for one passenger - Mrs Delahunty. Stars Prunella Scales.

I find Trevor's stories beguiling. An extra star for the film, which was really lovely.
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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