"Perfectly executed and chilling... a sad and oddly moving tale of lost opportunities and misplaced hopes.""--The New York Times "Trevor was our twentieth century Chekov."--Wall Street Journal Felicia is unmarried, pregnant, and penniless. She steals away from a small Irish town and drifts through the industrial English Midlands, searching for the boyfriend who left her. Instead she meets up with the fat, fiftyish, unfailingly reasonable Mr. Hilditch, who is looking for a new friend to join the five other girls in his Memory Lane. But the strange, sad, terrifying tricks of chance unravel both his and Felicia's delusions in a story that will magnetize fans of Alfred Hitchcock and Ruth Rendell even as it resonates with William Trevor's own "impeccable strength and piercing profundity" (The Washington Post Book World).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Felicia is a young woman from Ireland who finds herself pregnant after a brief love affair with a local boy who is 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!