"Ellie Dillahan is a shy orphan girl from the hill country, married to a man whose life has been blighted by an unspeakable tragedy. Ellie lives a quiet life in the small Irish town of Rathmoye until she meets Florian Kilderry, a young photographer preparing to leave Ireland and his past forever. The chance intersection of these two lost souls sets in motion a poignant love affair that requires Ellie to make an impossible choice." "In spare, exquisite prose, William Trevor delves into the circumscribed lives of the people of Rathmoye, exploring their passions and frustrations during one long summer."--BOOK JACKET.
William Trevor is, without a doubt, a painter in words. His latest novel, Love and Summer (2009), amply speaks to his ability to capture human joy and heartache in prose that never loses its artistic intensity. Trevor has the peculiar ability to depict quiet, unobtrusive lives in an interesting, even arresting way. The brushstrokes on his small canvas are never overly-dramatic, but they paint a beautifully-realised, impressionistic watercolour of 20th-century Irish life.
In Love and Summer, a stranger, Florian Kilderry, arrives in the small town of Rathmoye. He catches the eye of Ellie, a young woman who grew up in a convent, but who is now married to an older farmer, Dillahan. Ellie and Florian’s relationship begins innocently enough, but it quickly becomes more serious as the long summer days stretch out ahead of them. Ellie and Florian are careful to avoid the scrutiny of the Rathmoye townsfolk, but will they be able to keep their relationship a secret? And what happens when Florian has to leave Ireland at the end of the summer?
Trevor answers both these questions, but not with the expected results. He is much too skilled a writer to go for clichéd plot points. And if the story sounds familiar and simplistic, don’t believe that for a moment. Trevor constantly serves up unexpected human dramas, without making them gratuitous or melodramatic. His delicate touch can be seen in the way he carefully withholds some information, only to reveal it later to devastating effect.
All of his characters are beautifully human – they feel “real”, without having unnecessary tics and quirks to lend them verisimilitude. Ellie and Florian’s love story is quite typical, but magical for all that. And farmer Dillahan’s own tragic past lends his situation a rare poignancy: Ellie’s choice between him and Florian will eventually rest on her reconciling her conscience with her decision. I won’t say any more about it, but I thought Trevor handled it brilliantly.
I cannot really fault Love and Summer. It reminded me a lot of Thomas Hardy’s novels, though it is perhaps a bit of a less ambitious and more quiet book. But it does what it does so beautifully and realistically, that I was deeply moved and impressed. Trevor is definitely “the ultimate Old Master”, as one of the blurbs on the book claims.
The main story is of the somewhat one-sided love affair of Ellie, a married woman, and Florian, a careless single man who is just passing through on the way to the next stage of his life. One of the things I loved about the book was how the author seamlessly weaves the stories of the other characters into this love affair.
Trevor’s writing is beautiful and often poetic. Alot is left unsaid with the reader needing to fill in the blanks.
I read this for a book group and about half of the participants didn’t like the book and had trouble getting engaged with it. They felt it was too insubstantial and probably should have been a short story. I thought it was very well done and was impressed with how the author conveyed a depth to the characters and the story with very few words. Recommended.
A favorite quote: "Almost everything sounded wrong as soon as he said it and for a moment he felt that he belonged in his own created world of predators, that he was himself a variation of their cruelty. He had taken what there was to take, had exorcized, again, his nagging ghost. And doing so, in spite of tenderness, in spite of affection for a girl he hardly knew, he had made a hell for her."
The jacket blurb describes the plot as a passionate love affair between Ellie, a woman in a marriage of convenience, and Florian, a failure of a man who is leaving Ireland to start over. All of this takes place in a small Irish town in the 1950s.
Somehow though, I really don't think this is what Trevor is writing about. This slim 212 page novel is mainly filled with the internal thoughts - often mentally unstable ones - of the townsfolk, most of whom are underdrawn characters. The sub-plots are barely there, and while they show hints of paralleling the main story, the lack of depth means that they are just unnecessary. Ellie's love for Florian is difficult to understand, as he may be the most infuriating character I have encountered this year.
Beyond all this though, there is Trevor's writing - which is exceptional. His ability to place the reader in a character's mind, to detail the confusion of emotions, the random nature of thoughts, is what makes Love and Summer worthwhile. Even though the story and characters drove me crazy, the writing kept me interested.
Florian Kilderry has made nothing of his life and is now planning to sell the large family home to settle debts and then to leave Ireland because, as he says at one point, “People run away to be alone”, and Florian wants to be alone where, he hopes, he might be able to focus his life. He meets, quite by chance, Ellie, a young convent girl who worked for Dillahan, a farmer, sometime after he had accidentally killed his wife and child backing up a trailer, and whom Ellie subsequently married. Ellie knew nothing of farming, but she learned and she was happy with her lot. But she also knew nothing of relationships and love and when she and Florian begin to meet, to chat, to have tea together, love blossoms for Ellie and she plans to leave Ireland with Florian. But can she, will she do so? Will “Time’s searching wisdom…” come to bear in time?
The novel focuses on the clandestine but low-key relationship between Florian and Ellie, and is bordered by Dillahan working on his farm and relationship with Ellie, the scrambled memories of a Orpen Wren, a man who wanders about town tolerated by all, living thirty years in the past and awaiting the return of people long gone, the suspicions about Florian and Ellie by Miss Connulty, a woman whose life is sheared by a youthful seduction and subsequent abortion, the estrangement between Miss Connulty and her brother who has no inkling of the fact that his business assistant of many years loves him. The small town of Rathmoye is quiet and calm as people go about the business of their daily lives, but whenever or wherever there are people, there are emotions, failed and fulfilled desires, passions lived, forgotten or unknown, memories, lives marked by life, routine, love and misunderstandings. The genius of this novel, the genius of William Trevor is his ability to plumb the depths of these emotions and these connections; not with blunt descriptions for readers, but with the soft, deft strokes of an artist who does not miss the smallest nuance and who limns skeins of emotions such that you pause in admiration and you know, you feel that this is true, this is right, this is how you capture the welter of emotions and relationships that mark any human interactions. This is a novel about how memories shape lives and build walls that channel emotions and emotional connections, it is about loneliness and love, about dreams and expectations and hopes, it is about connections that are even greater than the denial of love.
A wonderful novel. Highly recommended.
Set in Ireland in the late 1950’s Trevor tells the story of Ellie Dillahan, whose marriage of convenience is just not working that well for her, and Florian Kilderry, a young photographer who is preparing to leave Ireland, and his thorny memories, behind forever. They meet one summer when Kilderry returns to sell his deceased parents’ home before moving to Scandinavia. Ellie notices him taking photographs at the funeral of a venerable town resident. They both stand out to the other residents, he because they don’t know who he is or why he would be photographing a funeral, and her because they like to oversee the orphan who married a man with a tragedy in his not too distant past. And they both ride bicycles. A lot.
It’s what Trevor is able to do with a simple story, written in spare prose, that is always such a delight. His sentences are finely crafted and you find yourself hanging on every word. When the summer is coming to a close and Ellie realizes that Florian will soon be leaving, Trevor gives us this on page 136:
“He would go and that he was gone would be her first thought every morning, as her first thought now was that he was here. She would open her eyes and see the pink-washed walls as she saw them now, the sacred pictures above the empty grate, her clothes on the chair in the window. He would be gone, as the dead are gone, and that would be there all day, in the kitchen and in the yard, when she brought in anthracite for the “Rayburn,” when she scalded the churns, while she fed the hens and stacked the turf…It would be there while she lay down beside her husband she had married, and while she made his food and cut his bread, and while the old-time music played.”
Twists, turns, holding your breath because you know what will happen…and then no, that’s not it…it’ll happen this way…oops…wait…no, I think this is it. Well, you get the idea. The last 50 pages have you reeling. Love, loss, grief, loyalty. Highly recommended.
Dillahan is a farmer who lost in his wife and child in an accident. He needs help with the farm so his sisters approach the nuns to find a suitable girl. They choose Ellie who had grown up in the 'foundling home'. She goes to the farm gladly enough as it offers a way out into the wider world. Ellie knows nothing of farming or of men but she adjusts. Dillahan is a very subdued, undemonstrative man, but they get used to each other and eventually marry.
At a funeral in the village one day Ellie happens to talk with a young man - Florian Kilderry - dark, handsome, interesting, talkative - and for the first time in her life Ellie experiences the warmth of human love and feels desire - and with it guilt! Florian is in the process of selling his family house and planning to leave Rathmoye. He's interested in Ellie and likes her but he's clearly not about to stick around. It's just a summer flirtation for him, but Ellie is thinking seriously about going with him. She's also torn by the realization that her stolid, loyal husband would be devastated by her departure.
After finishing the book I found myself thinking quite a bit about Dillahan, although he's not one of the main characters. He's experienced loss and grief, he's not an exciting husband but he's not insensitive or unkind and his love for Ellie is evident if seldom expressed.
I read this quickly after finishing my first book by Trevor, his previous novel "The Story of Lucy Gault" (2002). While I didn't find "Love and Summer" to be as spectacular, it was still wonderful, treating many of the themes - the irrevocably of decisions made and unmade, forced conformity to social standards, and institutional decline - with the same sensitivity and honesty.
While we usually associate funerals and death with separation, "Love and Summer," William Trevor's fourteenth novel, shows how it can just as easily lead to passionate connections. On the death of Mrs. Eileen Connulty, the young amateur artist Florian Kilderry intends to photograph the funeral procession through the town of Rathmoye. He stops to ask a young woman, Ellie Dillahan, for directions, and they are mutually taken with one another. Ellie, a foundling raised from childhood in a nearby convent, has been taken in as a housekeeper and was eventually married to Mr. Dillahan, a kindly, older, loving farmer with good intentions, but whose slow, regular life fails to satisfy the young Ellie. The death of his first wife and their child in a horrible farm accident also hunts him constantly. During their first encounter, Florian is taken with Ellie's innocence, and she is drawn to him because he stands for something - anything - outside of her small farm and her life of daily routine.
Florian idles for much of the book, occupying his parents' house while he waits for a buyer to appear, all the while thinking about his meetings with Ellie and his parents' artistic pasts. Over time, they meet more and begin an affair. He eventually tells her that, after selling the house, he plans to move to Scandinavia. Ms. Connulty, the daughter of the deceased woman whose funeral originally brought Florian and Ellie together, watches what she perceives to be Florian's encroachment on Ellie's life with suspicion. Ms. Connulty and a curious, verbose man by the name of Orpen Wren cast a shadow over the relationship of Ellie and Florian. In the middle of the night, Ellie slips out of the farmhouse to meet Florian on the road to give Florian one last embrace before assuming the only choice she ever really had - to live out the rest of her life with her harmless, unexciting, damaged husband.
It may just be the sentimentalist in me, but Trevor captures the poignancies and ambiguities in life with a wonderful tenderness. He can catch those feelings that pass between the quick silences in conversations that we so often look over, and a beautiful way of making even the pedestrian occurrence highly poetic. I already have "Fools of Fortune" and "Death in Summer," two of his other novels, and very much look forward to reading and reviewing them soon. For those new to Trevor, I recommend "The Story of Lucy Gault," his second-to-last novel, and probably the best work of fiction that I've read in the last year.
The Dillahan's marriage is a convenient but loveless one for Ellie, as her husband is good to her, but does not inspire her. She falls passionately in love with Florian, who lives in a neighboring town. He is a directionless underachiever, and is in the process of selling his late parents' home, to move to "Scandinavia" to make a new life for himself.
The relationship between Ellie and Florian deepens, and the single, middle-aged Miss Connulty is the only one who perceives the danger of this illicit relationship, as it resembles a tragic experience that she had a young woman. As the date of Florian's departure nears, Ellie falls more deeply in love with him, while realizing that she does not love her husband.
For me, Love and Summer was a beautifully written, quiet novel of love and repression in a small town. The intentions and portrayal of two key characters were unclear to me, which made this an incompletely satisfying, though still very enjoyable, read. Admittedly I did not give it the attention that it probably deserved, and I plan to re-read it if it makes the Booker Prize shortlist.
Trevor mixes the quotidian with the emotional, detailing with equal skill Dillahan’s farm chores, Ellie’s discovery of love, and Florian’s acceptance that he has not inherited his parents’ artistic talents.
This is own of those novels that, due to the subtly of the writing, has a quiet and lingering impact.
The book is set in a small Irish town called Rathmoye, and the action takes place in one summer, when a stranger, Florian Kilderry, comes to town and catches the eye of a local woman, Ellie Dillahan. Ellie was raised by nuns, and sent to her husband's farm as a housekeeper when she was old enough to go to work. Dillahan suffered an incredible tragedy; then later, married Ellie more for the sake of having someone around to help him on the farm. Kilderry has lived in the shadow of his parents' greatness all of his life, and with their deaths, has decided to leave Ireland for good to start a new life. Ellie and Florian begin a love affair, and Ellie begins planning for a new life as well. But alas.
Love and Summer is a novel about love and pain; it is also a story about loneliness and loss. It is told in a very muted and understated tone, and one of the joys of this novel is the author's ability to deliver mundane details about life in a small town without it ever becoming boring. His characterizations are excellent -- there's Miss Connulty, who runs a B&B with her brother and who understands firsthand Ellie's predicament; there's Orpen Wren, who served as the keeper of a family library on an estate which has long since burned to the ground, and who has seen enough in his lifetime to make him become a bit unhinged, and there's Dillihan, the farmer and Ellie's husband, who remains largely mute about his own tragedy. The lives of these characters tend to parallel the main story, each in their own way, and reflect a great deal of the emotional turmoil of the main characters.
Love and Summer is a fine novel, and continues Trevor's tradition of excellence in writing. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has previously read anything by this author. At the end of the day, it becomes much more than a story about love and loss -- and it is well worth reading for the author's understanding of the frailty of human relationships.
The story is very gentle and easy to read. Trevor manages to capture the ordinary everyday stuff of our lives that makes us who we are without boring us to death. The setting for the story is probably what would seem a picturesque village in Ireland to Aussie tourists, but possibly stifling for some of its inhabitants. The characters, whose trials and tribulations we follow, are each afflicted with their own private misfortune. The opening scene is Mrs Connulty's funeral.
Her adult children - a brother and sister - inherit the estate and some would say now own half the town. Miss Connulty looks after the bed and breakfast for travelling salesman (down to cleaning their shoes) whilst her brother looks after the other businesses. It is an uneasy relationship. Mr Connulty Jnr was his mother’s favourite and Miss Connulty had a fall from grace in her youth . Miss Connulty takes a vigorous interest in the possible threat to the reputation of a local farmer's wife - Ellie Dillahan. She is concerned that Ellie is being pursued by a passing photographer, Florian Kilderry. She entreats her brother to send Florian on his way but is unsuccessful in garnering his support.
Ellie's public misfortune is to be born a foundling. Cared for by nuns in a nearby village she is considered fortunate to gain a position as the housekeeper for a farmer recently bereaved when his wife and child died in a tragic accident. After a number of years she becomes his second wife but they are not blessed with children. As Miss Connulty feared, she falls in love with Florian.
And you’ll have to read the rest to find out what choices are made…..!
Into Ellie’s quite, contained life arrives photographer Florian Kilderry. The opposite of her tragic, distant husband, Ellie falls in love with Florian and begins a love affair with him. But the guilt Ellie feels over her actions and knowledge that her husband would be devastated if she left him forces her to make an impossible choice.
Both communities are tiny backwaters, where it sometimes appears that everyone knows everyone's habits and business, even seem privy to their inner lives, but it is not really so, for wrong assumptions are made, secret affairs carry on, thoughts and emotions, even at their most intense, can remain unrevealed or at least unarticulated.
There are seeming philanderers in both works - No Good Boyo and Florian Kilderry - who have hidden depths. There are apparent fools - Willy Nilly and Orpen Wren - who carry gossip and messages that both elucidate and confuse. 'Under Milkwood' has Polly Garter, whom everyone knows as a tart, who has heartfelt compassion and a tender capacity for love; in 'Love and Summer' the apparently guileless Ellie conducts an affair behind her husband's back, yet never loses her essential innocence or our sympathy.
At the centre of the Rathmoye community is Miss Connulty who at first seems to compare in her bossiness and aggrandisement with Milkwood's Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, but who we come to see by the end of the novel rather like Captain Cat, seeing more in his blindness than other sighted characters, and with real understanding and empathy for the 'fallen' Polly/Ellie.
I don't mean to carry the comparison any further, and of course the style of the two works is radically different, as is the effect they have on us, but I felt the association throughout my reading of this superb offering by one of our greatest living story-tellers, and I wanted to share it with others.
Initially, it is with Miss. Connulty that the novel engages the reader. She is a character to be pitied, coming off shrewd and cold when really her sore heart lies in the right place. Miss. Connulty watches from a distance and with a growing, hysterical dread the affections of a young woman, Ellie, in whom she sees a reflection of herself, being "ill-used."
Love and Summer is a tale of ordinary lives written in an extraordinary style. It is a novel which examines the intimate details of the common, plain, and mundane, only to have us realize that within such lives - every life, lie intricate details, meaning, and emotions that make the most seemingly insipid life hauntingly unforgettable. Trevor’s writing, of which this is the first I've read, is gentle and clam – unhurried, yet there is an underlying strength which runs throughout the whole tale, an anticipation in the words that mimics the inner turmoil of each life presented - major or minor. It is that, William Trevor’s use of words, which keeps the reader hooked and on edge, though the flow of the novel is mellow like that of an easy current.
An interesting, well-written piece, which, though dull and skim-able at times, is worth reading.