Children Of Dynmouth Paperback – May 1 1990
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About the Author
William Trevor was born in 1928 at Mitchelstown, County Cork, and he spent his childhood in provincial Ireland. He attended a number of Irish schools and later Trinity College, Dublin. He is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters. He has written many novels, including The Old Boys (1964), winner of the Hawthornden Prize; The Children of Dynmouth (1976) and Fools of Fortune (1983), both winners of the Whitbread Fiction Award; The Silence in the Garden (1988), winner of the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award; Two Lives (1991), which was shortlisted for the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award and includes the Booker shortlisted novella Reading Turgenev; and Felicia's Journey (1994), which won both the Whitbread Book of the Year and the Sunday Express Book of the Year awards. A celebrated short-story writer, William Trevor's latest collection, After Rain, is forthcoming in Penguin. He is also the editor of The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories (1989). He has written plays for the stage and for radio and television; several of his television plays have been based on his short stories. Most of his books are published by Penguin.
In 1976 William Trevor received the Allied Irish Banks' Prize, and in 1977 was awarded an honorary CBE in recognition of his valuable services to literature. In 1992 he received the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence. Many critics and writers have praised his work: to Hilary Mantel he 'is one of the contemporary writers I most admire' and to Carol Shields 'a worthy chronicler of our times'. In the Spectator Anita Brookner wrote 'These novels will endure. And in every beautiful sentence there is not a word out of place,' and John Banville believes William Trevor's to be 'among the most subtle and sophisticated fiction being written today'.
A note from William Trevor's editor, Tony Lacey:
"William Trevor is an Irishman who has lived most of his life in England, and an acclaimed short-story writer (the most accomplished currently writing in the world according to John Banville) who has also written some of the finest English-language novels of the last few decades. His continuing creativity bears comparison with the achievements of Philip Roth in old age: Trevor was 66 when Felicia's Journey won the the Whitbread Book of the Year Prize in 1994, and he has since written two indisputable prose masterpieces - The Story of Lucy Gault (2002) and Love and Summer (2009) - while continuing to publish a stream of fine collections of stories. Novelists, like goalkeepers but unlike poets and mathematicians, tend to get even better as they get older.
Trevor comes from an Irish Protestant background (his father was a bank manager in the Republic), and though he writes with notable sympathy about Catholics, the tension between Protestant landowners and Catholic tenants is a recurring theme in his books. There is often menace and suspicion in the air, in an apparently idyllic rural landscape. In The Story of Lucy Gault (2002) the Protestant family decides it has to leave Ireland for good - they are simply not safe where they are. Even when the religious element is absent, the idea of abandoning an inheritance is often present in the books - in Love and Summer Florian is making plans to leave the country, unable to maintain the big country house he inherited from his Bohemian parents. A sense of loss, of displacement, hangs over the book.
These novels involving gentry and tenants have been called 'big house' novels. But it would be wrong to think of Trevor as simply a novelist of big themes. In fact, it's the way he writes about the marginalized, the lonely or just the ordinary (if such a word means anything) which is so striking. These qualities are most evident in the short stories, which have often been compared to Chekhov's. He writes about an old Catholic priest in his garden who is falsely accused of having been an abuser by a blackmailing chancer just returned from England; or the husband of a woman suffering from Alzeimers, who sits alone in a Venice restaurant wondering why the young married couple are wasting precious time having a quarrel. His sympathies are deep, various and sometimes surprising, and they also give his novels their particular quality. Love and Summer is a heartbreaking novel not just because it's about a fleeting and doomed summer romance, but because everybody is viewed sympathetically, nobody is to blame for what happens. It's a very good place to start if you don't know Trevor's work - a master novelist writing at the height of his powers."--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Though Timothy starts to come off as an insidious blight on an entire town, when we learn the secrets he knows about other people, we learn that the people around Timothy are not so picture-perfect either; is he a wicked troublemaker, or more of a mirror that reflects the crusted underbelly of a small community? And when Timothy hints to another child that that boy's father may be a murderer, it is difficult to know if Timothy is even telling the truth. True or not, the damage is done. Suspicion and bitterness alter an innocent young boy's life forever, thanks to the infection of Timothy Gedge's words.
This is a creepy little tale, that becomes more and more thought-provoking as it skitters along. Some final passages in the novel indicate that the story should perhaps be taken as a look at a dangerous mind in early development, but I think there is much more going on than that. This tale is about all the people in Dynmouth.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The main character is a creepy 15-year-old boy who seems to know everyone's secrets - or invents such convincing ones that they become almost real - and sets out to blackmail the adults and children alike in order to get what he wants.
What he wants are only some simple props for an act he intends making at a talent contest, such as a tin bath, a man's suit and a wedding dress. He eventually gets them but at an emotional cost that his victims will never be able to pay.
Someone like Farrell would probably have turned the book into a black comedy but Trevor takes more of a Lord of the Flies approach to children and what they can get up to if left on their own.
It is a good read with a strong narrative and Trevor has created some memorable characters like the boy, Timothy Gedge, the "Commander" who gets him drunk and the clergyman's wife who has to cope with her private grief while ministering to the derelicts who turn up at the vicarage door demanding help.
However, he does not convincingly portray the relationship between Gedge and the 12-year-old boy and girl he harries. Nor does he do a good job of explaining the relationship between the boy and girl, whose parents have just married.
Furthermore, the idea that the Commander has been a secret homosexual all his life and his marriage of 36 years has not been consummated is a little difficult to accept.
Dynmouth is a small town of just over 4,000 inhabitants nestled on the Dorset coast. It seems to be an ordinary English town, and certainly those of its citizens who appear in the novel - with one singular exception - seem to be ordinary English folk. But, in the hands of William Trevor, no one is truly ordinary. Everyone has his or her secret, some merely foibles, others dank and dark stains of character. Take, for example, the Abigails: they have been married thirty-six years, and in their retirement Edith devotes herself to Meals on Wheels charity work, while Gordon, known as the Commander because he served at that naval rank for five months during World War II, strolls the beach and goes for an ocean swim daily. They would seem to be a picture of British rectitude. But, it turns out, Gordon has never been able to consummate their marriage; instead, he is attracted to young boys.
The one exception to the outward bland conventionality of the citizens of Dynmouth is Timothy Gedge, a lad of fifteen from a broken home. Gedge is a loner, who spies and eavesdrops on the folks of Dynmouth, and in the process ferrets out their secrets and then tries to blackmail them into cooperating with him in his bizarre fantasy of performing a tawdry comedic act, a la Benny Hill, at the town's annual "Spot the Talent" contest. Gedge is a superb psychologist and at the same time he is loathsome. Some come to the conclusion that he is possessed. Whatever, he is one of the creepiest characters I have encountered in fiction.
On the level of technique, THE CHILDREN OF DYNMOUTH is an accomplished work. But what does it mean? Right now (and I surely will continue to think about it over the coming days and weeks, for it portends to be more haunting than most novels) about all I can say is that it is an unsettling black comedy based on a rather jaundiced view of the human condition.
At the end of the novel, the carnival comes to Dynmouth, and it begins to broadcast over its loudspeakers the upbeat pop tunes of the day, and the day being sometime in 1974, the tune that echoes throughout Dynmouth is "Downtown" by Petula Clark ("The lights are much brighter there / You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares."). The last line of the novel is: "'How can you lose?' sang Petula Clark. `Things will be great.'" The irony is a tad heavy-handed.