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Two Lives Paperback – Jan 8 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics) (Jan. 8 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140153721
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140153729
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.7 x 19.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #595,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Mary Louise Dallon retained in her features the look of a child. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rese Jamora-Garceau on May 19 2000
Format: Paperback
The Irish author William Trevor can be deceptive. He writes his tales about Irish women in a vernacular that would seem at home in a 19th-century Romance novel. You think you've entered the pages of Henry James or Thomas Hardy. But underneath the carefully-chosen language, and a writing style that matches the green rolling hills and bustling seaports of his native Cork, Trevor's characters contain and endure all the horrors of modern life, as diverse and topical as terrorist bombings and mental illness.
Two Lives, Trevor's 1991 offering, contains a pair of novellas, Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria. The first is about Mary Louise Dallon, a young Protestant girl who consents to a "marriage of convenience" with a much older Catholic man, only to find herself in love with her ailing cousin, Robert. She is tortured daily by her husband's two old maid sisters, and finds refuge in the passages of Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev which Robert reads to her in a graveyard.
The situation may seem very old-fashioned, but watch how Trevor's plot unfolds like a well-tended piece of cloth: readers quickly become wrapped up in the life of Mary Louise, and anyone who has ever been accused of "burying their nose in a book" will understand her fate.
The second novella concerns Mrs. Delahunty, the owner of an Italian guest house in My House in Umbria, another woman character whose daily survival depends on burying the bad memories and experiences of her life. As she ruminates about the plot of her next Romance novel aboard a tourist train, a bomb goes off, killing half the passengers. The survivors find a refuge in her home, including an orphaned American girl who may hold the key to their psychic recovery.
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Format: Paperback
William Trevor is arguably the best living Irish author. This book consists of two novellas, each focusing on the life of a woman. After finishing the first novella, "Reading Turgenev", I was amazed at Trevor's deep understanding of particularly female experiences. I even momentarily postulated to myself that this work was ghost written by a woman. Trevor's writing style in this particular work reminds me of Kate Chopin.
In "Reading Turgenev", a woman in her early twenties, Mary Louise, is courted by a particularly unattractive man about fifteen years older than herself. She is drawn to the fellow by two things -- he owns a dry goods store and he's interested in her. She marries him with the hope that he can offer her a home with a more interesting setting than a farm. He marries her so that he can carry on the family line. It is a diastrous mismatch for a slew of the usual reasons (insurmountable age difference, insurmountable religious difference, meddling in-laws, third persons on both sides, sexual incompatibiility, etc.). Mary Louise becomes more and more introspective and depressed as time goes on. She then embarks upon and "successfully" carries out one of the most desperate escape plans in modern fiction. I couldn't put this story down.
The second novella, "My House in Umbria" was less absorbing but, like just about everything else by Trevor, is worthwhile reading. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback
William Trevor has once again cast his storytelling spell. These two novellas are absolutely captivating. I read this book in one sitting and upon finishing turned back to page one and began again. The man can write---what genius. Bravo.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Oct. 15 2001
Format: Paperback
I found this book really hard to get into and quite boring, perhaps i need to read it again to get the full value of Trevor's work. PLEASE, don't get me wrong Trevor is a fantastic and talented writer who definately deserves praise, this book just didn't do much for me at all.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
A devotion that outlasts death May 19 2000
By Rese Jamora-Garceau - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Irish author William Trevor can be deceptive. He writes his tales about Irish women in a vernacular that would seem at home in a 19th-century Romance novel. You think you've entered the pages of Henry James or Thomas Hardy. But underneath the carefully-chosen language, and a writing style that matches the green rolling hills and bustling seaports of his native Cork, Trevor's characters contain and endure all the horrors of modern life, as diverse and topical as terrorist bombings and mental illness.
Two Lives, Trevor's 1991 offering, contains a pair of novellas, Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria. The first is about Mary Louise Dallon, a young Protestant girl who consents to a "marriage of convenience" with a much older Catholic man, only to find herself in love with her ailing cousin, Robert. She is tortured daily by her husband's two old maid sisters, and finds refuge in the passages of Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev which Robert reads to her in a graveyard.
The situation may seem very old-fashioned, but watch how Trevor's plot unfolds like a well-tended piece of cloth: readers quickly become wrapped up in the life of Mary Louise, and anyone who has ever been accused of "burying their nose in a book" will understand her fate.
The second novella concerns Mrs. Delahunty, the owner of an Italian guest house in My House in Umbria, another woman character whose daily survival depends on burying the bad memories and experiences of her life. As she ruminates about the plot of her next Romance novel aboard a tourist train, a bomb goes off, killing half the passengers. The survivors find a refuge in her home, including an orphaned American girl who may hold the key to their psychic recovery.
In one sense, the two novellas in Two Lives are about the strange uses people make of literature in their lives. It can be a life preserver for some, an escape hatch for others. Some readers may have trouble with Trevor's style, which occasionally jumps from present consciousness to filtered memory with no intervening transition, like Mary Louise, whose life switches channels between the present moment and her remembered scraps of Russian literature quite erratically. Mrs. Delahunty in My House in Umbria also spends her time alternating between real events and the plot of her next novel. It takes getting used to. But isn't consciousness like this sometimes, the intrusions of real life dovetailing unevenly with our renegade thoughts? Trevor's memorable characters seem as though they live by the rules of an earlier era, but they are also gifted with a hard, native common sense. It's this trait that wins the day, or helps them persist through very difficult lives. Not to mention that William Trevor is among the finest writers living today, in touch with mysteries of both depth and shadow.
The question of faith runs through both novellas, and with it a theme so common in Irish literature and music, from James Joyce's The Dead to Sinead O'Connor's I Am Stretched On Your Grave: that of a devotion that outlasts death. What kind of faith can compete with a love from beyond the grave? This question causes one character to muse: "The dead become nothing when you weary of doing their living for them. You pick and choose among the dead; the living are thrust upon you."
In Two Lives, faith not only creates mysteries, it can produce minor miracles. In William Trevor's completely believable world, mixed in with the old-fashioned, there are strong doses of the new, the horrible and the tragic. Thankfully, there are also flashes of hope and kindness.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Two Wonderfully Mesmerizing Novellas March 29 2000
By Tom O'Leary - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
William Trevor has once again cast his storytelling spell. These two novellas are absolutely captivating. I read this book in one sitting and upon finishing turned back to page one and began again. The man can write---what genius. Bravo.
Trevor wins again Jan. 22 2014
By Elaine Traverso - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Trevor continues his mastery of the short story, placing him in the long tradition of Irish storytelling. A valuable addition to one's collection.
Beautifully written Feb. 18 2013
By Pat - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Of the two short stories in this volume, I am most familiar with My House in Umbria.
It is fairly true to the movie which starred Maggie Smith and Ronnie Barker. These stories are about people who have endured loss, heartache, trauma; who have simply been wrung through the wringers. Still there is a glimmer of light and truth found through a connection with other people
another Trevor triumph Feb. 8 2013
By mariana - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a fine, fine writer is William Trevor! And what extraordinary characters he creates. In TWO LIVES we meet two women from totally distinct realities, each forced into a world of illusion by the sad circumstances of life.

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