Consider the opening paragraph. "On a June evening some years after the middle of the last century Mrs Eileen Connulty passed through the town of Rathmoye: from Number 4 The Square to Magennis Street, into Hurley Lane, along Irish Street, across Cloughjordan Road to the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer. Her night was spent there." How beautifully it sets the period, establishes the mid-sized Irish town, brushes against the mild pretension of "Number 4 The Square," and adds its final piece of delayed information: Mrs. Connulty was in her coffin. William Trevor treads with assurance on familiar ground, but he never quite walks in straight lines; he will tell you what you need to know only when you need it. In this book where nothing much happens -- at least to the outward eye -- it is important that things be told at their proper pace and in the right order. At this, Trevor is the acknowledged master.
Mrs. Connulty's funeral gives us occasion to meet the main characters, who are few. The old lady's middle-aged son and daughter, both business people in the town. An elderly man whose mind is stuck thirty years back. Ellie, a naive young woman from the countryside. And a strange young man on a bicycle who takes photographs. The only major character not present is Dillahan, Ellie's husband, a sheep-farmer who has his reasons for avoiding company. I am only at the start of the second chapter, and already I have revealed more than the author (although the jacket blurb gives away almost the entire plot). Taking his time, but never wasting words, Trevor will tell us more of Dillahan's tragedy, and how he came to marry this dutiful girl from the orphanage. He will have us meet the bicycling photographer, Florian Kilderry, living alone in a crumbling mansion outside town. He will have Florian meet Ellie, unaware at first that she is married, and gradually let us enter both their hearts. And he will establish the older characters as town chorus, occasional bit-players, and individuals with past secrets of their own.
In novels such as THE STORY OF LUCY GAULT, and even more in his story collections like the perfectly-titled AFTER RAIN, Trevor has shown an amazing ability to emerge from apparent tragedy with an outcome that, though seldom the storybook ending, is emotionally consoling and morally right. Although LOVE AND SUMMER is not his strongest book, in this respect he does not disappoint. We may think we know these people and what is going to happen... but then Trevor slowly reveals more of each of them, here deepening our sympathies, there shading them with further knowledge. Over the course of the long summer, the emotional perspective slowly shifts. By the time the senile old man stumbles back into the picture, bringing a muddled epiphany, we will understand that the surprising resolution is really the only one possible.