Felicia's journey

by William Trevor

Hardcover, 1994




London : Viking, 1994


A stunning, rich novel of suspense from one of Ireland�s most distinguished writers.In -- , Trevor gently explores the intricate relationship between a predator and his intended victim.Felicia is young and pregnant, having stolen away from a small Irish town to search for her boyfriend in the industrial sprawl of the English Midlands. Fat, 50ish, and unfailingly reasonable, Mr. Hilditch is looking for a new friend to join the five other girls he has �befriended�. Under Trevor�s master hand, both characters become startlingly sympathetic in their tragic dance from which only one of them will emerge victorious�and alive.

User reviews

LibraryThing member katiekrug
I have several of William Trevor’s novels and short story collections on my shelves, but this was the first work of his I’ve read. What a dark and creepy introduction! Felicia is a naïve Irish teenager, left pregnant by a local boy and abandoned upon his return to England where he supposedly
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works in a factory. She travels there in search of him but meets up with the helpful Mr. Hilditch instead.

The novel started off rather slowly for me but as the tension mounted and the atmosphere of foreboding and menace increased, I found myself more and more involved in the story. Trevor’s great gift here is to present the reader with “warts and all” portraits of his characters but to stir a sense of empathy for them, as well. The snatches of memory and dreams he describes give the novel a disjointed, uneasy feeling that only adds to the dark atmosphere. It’s all very bleak but also very well-written. I am glad I have more of Trevor’s work to explore.
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LibraryThing member John
William Trevor is fast becoming a favourite author of mine. I thoroughly enjoyed "The Story of Lucy Galt" and his recent collection of short stories, "A Little on the Side". Felicia's Journey is one of his earlier books, published in 1994. It is excellent. Trevor is a master at evoking emotions,
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moods, impressions with an impressive economy of words and only the briefest of descriptions, allowing the reader to fill-in the details and thus engaging the reader more fully into the story.

Felicia is a small-town Irish girl trapped in an unhappy family where she is basically the charwoman for her father, invalid grandmother, and three taciturn brothers. She falls for the charms of an Irish boy home visiting from England, the first boy to pay her any attention, and she gets pregnant. Having only a vague idea of where the boyfriend is living and working (he has told her he works in lawn mower manufacturing plant), she takes money from the house and flees to England. She cannot even find the manufacturer which may never have existed or which went out of business some years earlier. Increasingly distraught, and more critically, vulnerable, Felicia meets Mr.Hilditch whom she innocently asks for directions on day. Mr.Hilditch works as a catering manager in a large firm; he lives by routine in his personal and professional lives, he lives alone, a man who likes food and who has the girth to attest to it. He is respected and well-liked in his place of work; an inoffensive, pleasant man, who makes no demands and who is unfailingly polite and considerate to all. But he harbours demons and preys upon weak, unconnected, lonely, abandoned, vulnerable women. Felicia fits the bill perfectly as he "aids" her in her search for her boyfriend while all the time thwarting any real progress so as to increase her vulnerability and despair.

Trevor limns his characters wonderfully, again, leaving things unsaid, letting the story unfold, leaving the reader wondering whether Mr.Hilditch is a serial killer of women or just a pathetic, lonely man who finds pleasure in being seen in public with these women (but away from his usual haunts), constructing all kinds of fantasies in his mind as to what others might be thinking in looking at him and his partner.

Felicia breaks the pattern though because he takes her into is house, and when they break, there is a connection that is known to others and that comes to the fore. This completely unnerves Mr.Hilditch whose whole, carefully constructed, protected, isolated, cocooned life starts to unravel.

The novel, also a theme in "Lucy Galt", also deals with the tragic consequences of words hastily spoken in anger, or the misinterpretation of intentions that can set people down unchangeable paths of anguish for both parties left wandering and disconnected, when the simplest re-connection would lead to reconciliation.

Watching the relationship between Felicia and Mr.Hilditch is liking watching a train wreck in slow motion. You can see what is going to happen, and you can't stop it, but you are not entirely sure how complete the disaster might be. Trevor maintains that tension and emotional engagement throughout and even in the end he does not fall for the easy solution because life is not often like that. A very fine writer.
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LibraryThing member AlisonY
This is the story of Felicia, a young girl from Ireland who gets swept off her feet by a young local lad whilst he's back home from England for a short visit. Falling pregnant, she heads across to Birmingham to try to find him, but all does not go according to plan, and a sinister plot begins to
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unfold as she meets someone who is not all he seems.

I thought this book was great - as Trevor teases us with titbits about what might be coming down the line, it becomes a real page-turner, and was definitely one of those books were there was no way I was going to bed until I finished it.

The writing was an older type of prose in style, which I really enjoyed but felt it made the modern setting seem slightly less believable. There was one part where he mentions Felicia bought something for fourpence, which seems totally erroneous as that coin was phased out in 1971, yet in another part of the book he mentions dates which lead you to believe the book is set sometime in the early 1990s. If no dates had been mentioned, I could easily have thought this book was set in the 1950s.

That aside, it was a great read, and I will definitely read some more from [[William Trevor]] in the future. The ending was perhaps a little bit of a let down, so dropping a star for that, but still a book I would recommend nonetheless.

4 stars.
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LibraryThing member BookConcierge
A different read for our book club. Psychological thriller. We know the danger she is in, but she is unaware ...
LibraryThing member Cariola
This is probably Irish writer William Trevor's best-known novel, perhaps because it was made into a film starring the great Bob Hoskins. Mr. Hilditch, a rotund bachelor in his fifties who works for a catering company, is on the lookout for a lonely young woman to befriend when Felicia walks into
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his view. Felicia has left her home in Ireland to search for Johnny Lysaght, a local boy who got her pregnant while home for Christmas. Johnny, who would not give Felicia his address when he left, told her that he was taking a position in a lawnmower factory in this industrial English town, but no such plant seems to exist. Mr. Hilditch worms his way into her confidence with sympathy, advice, and his story of a wife dying in the hospital, and their relationship progresses through a series of offered rides to cups of tea in local cafes to an offer to stay temporarily in Hilditch's house. What will happen to Felicia? And what has happened to Jakki, Gaye, Edie Covington, and the other girls to whom Hilditch often refers in his personal musings?

This is a creepy story in the Hitchcokian vein--well written and suspenseful, but not my favorite Trevor novel. Still, his keen perceptions of human nature and his fine writing come through.
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LibraryThing member mmhubbell
Years ago I saw the film version of this story, and while there are some major differences between the novel and film, both are excellent, complex character stories -- and very dark!

Felicia is a young woman from Ireland who finds herself pregnant after a brief love affair with a local boy who is
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now living and working in England. Not wanting to be pushy, Felicia never got the boy's address and can't write to him to tell him of the pregnancy, so she goes off to England to try to find him, based only on the type of job he said he had and a town she thinks he said he worked in.

Searching from place to place, she meets Mr. Hilditch, a (seemingly) kindly, dapper, middle aged bachelor who is the catering manager at a large factory cafeteria. He tries to help her on her quest - as, it turns out, he has tried to "help" many other young girls he has befriended over the years. A review I read describes Hilditch as "a gentle psychopath" and that pretty much sums him up! Through Hilditch's memories of his other "friends" we begin to wonder just what he has in store for poor Felicia, but like so many other of Trevor's characters, it is Hilditch's dark shameful secret that haunts him and gets him in the end.

If I hadn't seen the film, I may have thought most of this book too boring, as Felicia goes from one place to another looking for her boyfriend and avoiding Mr. Hilditch's "help." And unfortunately there were some wonderful scenes in the movie, not in the book (I keep meaning to look it up on IMDB to see if Trevor adapted it for the screenplay.) It is definitely a DARK story, and again a sort of crime/mystery, and filled with British slang, colloquial and quirkiness. But again, Trevor's storytelling (other than a dull middle bit!) and excellent quietly creepy characterization of Hilditch, keeps the novel moving to the - chilling! - end. The final page's description of a cat as witness is really a wonderful detail!
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LibraryThing member oldblack
This book is a good study of two characters, Felicia and a disturbed man who befriends her. It's well written but it made me feel uncomfortable to read about how Felicia was manipulated by a number of people. Disturbing.
LibraryThing member wbwilburn5
I will always read anything by William Trevor. He writes such beautiful prose in the form of a quiet novel.
LibraryThing member Bookish59
Slow moving mystery.
LibraryThing member Nataliec7
A different type of book than I'm used to however I enjoyed the writing style. The character development was excellent and I got a sense for both Felicia and Mr Hilditch. It was quite predictable but this didn't take away from a good read.
LibraryThing member ivanfranko
A real gripper. Felt like the ambience was more seventies than nineties. Good writer is Trevor.


Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 1996)
Costa Book Awards (Shortlist — Novel — 1994)
LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — Fiction — 1995)
Irish Times Literature Prize (Shortlist — fiction — 1995)



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