Janelle's Reviews > The Story of Lucy Gault

The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
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's review
Aug 09, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: read-with-my-book-group

This was my first William Trevor book. The author bio lists MANY prestigious awards and quite a long bibliography, so I'm a touch embarrassed I haven't heard of him before, but now at least I can say I've read one of his novels.

The Story of Lucy Gault is a deeply atmospheric book. It takes place over most of the 20th century, beginning in 1921 with an act that drives the rest of Lucy's story, and ending at some unknown point in the late 20th or early 21st century (there is a reference to "the Internet"). It's set in rural Ireland. It could have been a political story, as the aforementioned act was part of The Troubles and the main character's Protestantism is one of many marks of difference she carries throughout her life - but Trevor didn't cast it that way. The book is Lucy's story, not Ireland's, and it is as personal and decontextualized as a child's affront at a perceived wrong.

Lucy is an outsider in most of her own story. Her deep and abiding happiness at the beginning only serves to show how deeply cast out she becomes. I found myself both impressed at her ability to cope with what life brings her and angered that she should be made to suffer so. What was a paradise of home to an 8-year-old becomes a place of banishment. She is terribly isolated, and no one seems to care - at least not enough to DO anything about it. They just shrug and accept it. The constraints of society at that time failed to allow anyone to show sympathy for her plight. I found myself wishing that she could just go to a city and start a new life. But that was not Lucy's way.

(And Lucy's parents, who did leave and try to start a new life, failed utterly. This storyline was unspeakably sad.)

I rather felt shut out of Lucy's thoughts myself. Even though the narrator was omniscient, the narrator didn't let me in on much of her inner dialogue. Another detail that kept me at arm's length was the use of period language - the colloquialism were so thick that I often did not understand their meaning (this is my own failing, though). The language helped create the novel's dreamy quality.

I was touched when Lucy had a chance at love - and heartbroken when she could not bring herself to enjoy it - but truly moved when she showed sympathy and love for Horahan at the end. She finally grew enough (no thanks to anyone else in the novel - there was NO mentor in her life!) to follow her intuition and act, even if it meant violating the social code.

I think this tale will cling to me for a while.
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