Friday, October 12, 2012

An Exquisite Story

The Story of Lucy Gault
The Story of Lucy Gault 

by William Trevor

This is a book of stories within stories. The title character, Lucy Gault, is at the center of these stories, but the genesis of the novel goes back in history for centuries. It is that long that the Gault family has been in Ireland, yet their British origins haunt them to the current day and when uprisings erupt throughout the countryside in the years immediately following WWI, the Gaults (like most Protestant landlords) found themselves in real peril of their lives. When they decide to leave after an attack on their home at Lahardane their plans are disrupted by nine-year-old Lucy who, refusing to go, runs away. When she is found missing the story takes a further turn and the life of Lucy and her parents is literally turned upside down. The remainder of the novel is suspenseful as the story of Lucy develops apart from that of her parents.
Lucy lives a life guided by "her obedience to an intention that was entirely her own"(p 209). It is this that both gives her strength to continue to make a home for herself at Lahardane, but it also leads her to make some unwise decisions. These decisions raise the melancholy of her life story to tragedy, or at least semi-tragedy. She demonstrates perseverence that is fueled by a certain strength of character. She delights in the natural surroundings at Lahardane but also the life of her own mind. Lucy loves to read from a young age and she has access to a well-stocked library at Lahardane. During the course of her story the narrator mentions her reading several times, but the title of one book she read seemed an appropriate metaphor for her life, The Diary of a Nobody by by George Grossmith and his brother Weedon Grossmith (p 94). The irony of the title is doubled by the comic content of Grossmiths' short novel. Trevor sets her story against the backdrop of Irish life and history, with the parallels between them never deep below the surface. The result is an exquisite novel that was a joy to read.

The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor.  Penguin Books, 2003 (2002)

No comments: