5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonder of Words and Moods
Death in Summer is one of the more appropriate titles for a novel I've seen in a while. William Trevor is a gifted writer, one of characteristic styles that are fascinating, illuminating..yet with a dark view of the world that begs for light. The stories of three deaths, bizarrely interrelated in a strange English place, is only a superficial tease of what lies within...
Published on Jan. 16 2002 by Grady Harp
3.0 out of 5 stars This one deserves more than one reading
When I first read this book, I had very mixed feelings about it. I was bored, confused, intrigued, saddened and disappointed all at the same time. But I realize now that I really need to give this one another shot. I've spoken with many people who have also read this novel about some of the important components of the story and of its style. I was bored, I think,...
Published on April 21 2000 by Kelly M. Stitzel
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2.0 out of 5 stars So so,
This review is from: Death in Summer (Hardcover)Nothing's really great about the story, although it has some surprising elements. The language is quite cumbersome, with lengthy sentences. It might be appealing to some readers, but not exactly me. Ever feel like you're dragging yourself to endure something? That's how I feel trying to complete reading the book.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonder of Words and Moods,
This review is from: Death in Summer (Paperback)Death in Summer is one of the more appropriate titles for a novel I've seen in a while. William Trevor is a gifted writer, one of characteristic styles that are fascinating, illuminating..yet with a dark view of the world that begs for light. The stories of three deaths, bizarrely interrelated in a strange English place, is only a superficial tease of what lies within and beneath this fine novel. The real passings are about the deaths of life views that occur when indescribable losses alter our lives. Trevor has an uncanny ability to vary his vocabulary/tone/philosophical views/visceral descriptions adjusted according to which of his myriad characters is relating a view of the story. Whether the description of a garden is eloquent when from the mind and mouth of the gentrified owners of the mansion where the story takes place, or the interior of a cafe is puncutated with the glassy views of a declining, bosomy "loose woman", or the stagnation of a squalid orphanage is regarded with acceptance by the ne're-do-well young folks of the street - with each of these disparate voices Trevor allows authenticity beyond the abilities of most contemporary authors. At times his stream of conscious style of writing causes the need to retrace pages to make sure where we are, but that is a glory in and of itself. THAT is how submerged the reader becomes when reading this fine book. It has its own life!
4.0 out of 5 stars Interiors and Exteriors Make Interesting Story,
This review is from: Death in Summer (Paperback)William Trevor has been highly recommended by people I respect, and I do plan on reading more of him. DEATH IN SUMMER is the first of his works I've encountered and while it did not quite live up to what I expected, that's not to say it isn't good. As I read it, I kept imagining it as a contemporary British television dramatization, a medium to which it would translate well, if not better than the page. The story is spare yet complicated: A new widower with an infant interviews and decides not to hire a nanny, instead accepting his mother-in-law's offer to come care for the child. Unknown to him, one of the girls interviewed and not hired as a nanny becomes obsessed with him, interjecting into his life unforeseen consequences, forcing him to confront the emotional isolation in which he had long taken refuge. The characters are fully drawn, as are the settings. The sentences are graceful. The movement of the action is a bit off, spending a little too much time away from the protagonist at times. It can be very quiet, too; doesn't eat its own scenery. In the end, though, it successfully conveys its themes, especially the observation of how so much of our knowledge about others' lives is gathered in eavesdropping or guessing, never with the complete information.
5.0 out of 5 stars Death in Summer is a wonderfully quiet mystery,
This review is from: Death in Summer (Paperback)Early in William Trevor's novel, Death in Summer, the male caretaker of the house in which most of the story's action takes place muses about the correlation between horse-racing and a life spent caring for other people's property; a life of servitude but also one of observation. His conclusion is that "Other people's lives, how they are lived and what they are, offer what the vagaries of the turf do: mystery and the pleasure of speculation." Therein lies the pleasure of reading Death in Summer, which offers more observation than commentary,and which tends to show characters' actions first and then only gradually reveal their motives. There is a quiet mystery interwoven into the story, well maintained by Trevor's prose, which is simultaneously simple and beautiful.
Death in Summer is a meloncholy story, which makes sense as the action begins with a death. Letitia, "a person of almost wayward generosity," is killed when a car strikes her bicycle. She leaves behind a husband, Thaddeus and their infant child Georgina. Letitia's death leaves a literal void--now Georgina will grow up without a mother,but she also leaves a symbolic void. Letitia's good nature and uncomplicated love towards her fellow humans is notably absent in the characters that outlive her (with the exception of Albert,whose goodness winds up being just as futile as Letitia's). Pettie, the orphaned girl who interviews for the position of nanny for Georgina, is constantly looking for father figures--older men to fill the void from her past. She falls in love with Thaddeus, but it only leads to a complicated kidnapping plot. Unlike Letitia and Albert, Pettie cannot simply love and wish the best for those she loves. Trevor's gradual unfolding of her character and the events that shaped her--revealing in tiny pieces her relationship to one of the many "uncles" who came to visit the female orphans--is one of the most masterful elements of Death in Summer. He allows the characters actions to speak without too much explanation and he does not over-analyze. That we, as readers, have to be patient with the story makes it all the more engrossing to read. Death in Summer is a wonderful and haunting book.
5.0 out of 5 stars It's what you don't see that matters,
This review is from: Death in Summer (Paperback)Trevor reminds me of Flannery O'Connor. The holy spirit is somehow numinously present in the random, cruel, and grotesque universe that he describes with such precision and wit. In this story, as in so many others, he succeeds in developing our sympathy for the unloved, the shattered, and the deranged. The reader ends up tolerating, appreciating, even loving the most unlikely characters. In this particular book references to Quincunx allude to Browne's Urn Burial; Trevor's tone is steeped in the melancholy wonder that one hears in Browne and W. G. Sebald, who seems to have tramped some of the same vintage in The Rings of Saturn. The mysteries of life, death, entrapment, growth, and transcendence abide after the surprises and plot twists have been forgotten. Felicia's Journey left me with lingering creepiness, but Death in Summer provides an astringent sense of hope despite the despair and decay all around.
4.0 out of 5 stars A chain of events triggered by an accident,
This review is from: Death in Summer (Paperback)Fully realized characters and a plot that turns on the cause and effect results of a random accident are woven into this remarkable novel. The nature of inocence is explored through characters who are victimized by circumstance and others whose acts are based in past trauma when inocence was lost. This story and the people in it will stay with you for a long while. Highly recomended.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as powerful as Felicia's Journey.,
This review is from: Death in Summer (Paperback)I read this book while on a recent vacation to Great Britain and maybe my favorable impression of it has more to do with being in London as I was reading it. While it does not have the power of "Felicia's Journey" it is still William Trevor at his best. Those looking for a slam-bang mystery novel full of adventure and many car-chases etc. will not find this their cup of team. Trevor is to be read slowly and often to be reread. But the characters do ring true and the images that he paints remain vivid in my mind. For those who have enjoyed Trevor's writing in the past, this will not disappoint. For those who are reading him for the first time, this does take some patience and much concentration. But it is well-worth the effort
4.0 out of 5 stars Will Our Pasts Bring Us Together or Keep Us Apart?,
This review is from: Death in Summer (Paperback)This is a novel I admire very much. I've just finished reading it a second time in less than six months and I continue to find it profound and extremely moving. I had no idea when I signed on to this site I'd find it in need of defending.
Trevor's work is deceptive, that's certainly clear. I've become familiar with his work in the last few years, and have come to think of him as a writer who makes truly subversive use of a wide range of literary conventions. In the case of Death in Summer, it is the suspense plot he is employing. As in previous works -- I'm thinking along the lines of Felicia's Journey, "Gilbert's Mother," and "The Telephone Game," -- Trevor provides the reader enough suspense to access the characters and story, but ultimately offers a higher, more thematically rich set of conflicts to take its place. The suspense is meant only to assist.
This will lose (judging from the reviews) certain kinds of readers. I can imagine it's frustrating to first and foremost want plot, but to be given theme as your main concern instead. But even that is not a fair description of Death in Summer.
Trevor alerts the reader in the first chapter as to the real substance of his story. What happens in chapter one is the reader's first alert that the book is more than the story of a missing baby.
Thaddeus' wife, who is dead when the book begins, is featured prominently in the first chapter via a flashback. She makes what is to be a pivotal and (potentially) instructive act of generosity. She convinces her husband to help an old friend of his, a woman she has never met (and whom she has likely guessed was once her husband's lover). It is an act of genuine humanity, a kind of humanity that her husband (who has lived his entire life in a state of lovelessness) does not understand on page 10, but may or may not on page 200. THIS is the real suspense of Trevor's novel. Will people grow in time to save one another?
What could be more suspenseful than that?
This subversion of suspense aside, the novel is a challenging read on other levels as well. For instance, Trevor has chosen an extremely useful prose style for the book, but one which is dense and complex--a meaningful challenge if you're tuned into the book's themes, but something of a chore if you're not. As his characters' pasts so much inform their present sensibilities, the prose itself does not make clear distinctions between moments in time. It is easy to be momentarily lost, but this is necessary, it seems to me, to blend time in a way that gives us the characterization and thematic support Trevor is after.
The book is magnificent in its writing and humbling in its themes. Trevor clearly wants the world to be a more compassionate place, which is not always the case with writers today. It seems a shame that there might be readers who read this novel passively and then discourage others from trying it--others who might have given it more care and attention, who might have been moved and inspired by it.
Try this book. Test your tolerance for graceful, subtle, humane writing. Reward Trevor for his efforts and he will reward you for yours.
3.0 out of 5 stars This one deserves more than one reading,
This review is from: Death in Summer (Paperback)When I first read this book, I had very mixed feelings about it. I was bored, confused, intrigued, saddened and disappointed all at the same time. But I realize now that I really need to give this one another shot. I've spoken with many people who have also read this novel about some of the important components of the story and of its style. I was bored, I think, because I'm used to reading stories that follow a certain pattern. When one doesn't do that, it's a natural reaction to get bored with it. What we have is a suspense novel that doesn't really deal so much with the suspense. Trevor is using the characters and their lives, their relationships, their reactions to their situations to really build the story. I don't agree that the characters are as flat as a cardboard box. Thaddeus is definitely the least empowered of them all, but there are reasons for that. Mrs. Iveson isn't as mean as all that. Look at her reaction when Albert tells her about Pettie towards the end. There's so much there that you can miss if you don't read it closely the first time through. Some say there shouldn't be so much work involved in understanding this book. But, then again, I don't think Trevor wrote this book for people who don't want to use their noodle.
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull story combined with bland characters,
This review is from: Death in Summer (Paperback)This book is just another version of a well-worn and highly overused story. However, this did not doom the book, which could have been salvageable had the story been written in an engrossing manner and the ending be dramatic. Unfortunately this was not the case and instead the reader is subjected to characters as lively as cardboard boxes, meandering along until the flat ending is reached. The only exception is the mother-in-law character, whose obnoxious, haughty manner does stand out well. We can almost understand why the villianess does hate her so much. This, and a inane sub-plot having nothing to do with the main story are the only things that stand out. Mercifully, this book is very short.
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Death in Summer (Paperback)
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