miércoles, 12 de septiembre de 2012

The Story Of Lucy Gault by William Trevor

The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor is a novel with such a strong sense of place that it is hard not read it with a consciously-applied west of Ireland accent. The sounds seem to fit so perfectly.

The book is the story of Lucy, her immediate family and their acquaintances. At the start Lucy is barely past the toddler stage, but she is a headstrong and independently-minded young girl who does not want to leave Lahardane, where she and her family seem to belong. Lahardane is a house an farm near Enniseala in Ireland. The problem is that her parents, Captain Everard and Heloise, have foreign, even English connections. The story begins in nineteen twenty-one, a time of revolution and change in Ireland and there are some who now are not as welcoming as they once were. There has already been an incident when Captain Everard shot and wounded a young man, believing that he and his friends had come to the house with an intention to do harm beyond petty theft. The time is right to leave the place, the couple conclude.

But Lucy is of this place. She has known nowhere else. She cannot contemplate such a change. But she is young. She will soon learn, soon forget, no matter how strongly she feels that her very existence is entwined with this place, this country, the sea, this community and its people she knows so well.

What separates Lucy from her parents might stretch the imagination of some readers, but it remains both possible and credible. In an era where individuals stay permanently connected as they roam, it might be hard to imagine an age when people are not just off the radar – partly because that had not even been invented then! – when they remain both impossible to locate and impossible to contact. If one separated party did not know the other’s whereabouts, then the same was true the other way round. And if someone decided to cut with the past and start afresh, then they were separated from their former life for good, as long as they wanted to stay that way. But not in this novel…

Everard and Heloise are clearly quite wealthy people. They can do their own thing, virtually wherever they want. In the first half of the twentieth century, their desire to wander did not entertain anything outside of Europe, but that provided sufficient scope to satisfy their needs. Thus they meander into new lives, pursued by a sense of bereavement.

Lucy, on the other hand, got her way and stayed at Lahardane. She picked up an illness and an injury along the way, but one was quite soon cured and the other – well, the other became less significant as time passed, as did other considerations that were initially pressing. She grew up, loved a man, but dare not act on her feelings, since they were usually located elsewhere. She saw a war come and go, and perhaps did much the same with a life.

What happens to Lucy and her parents is fundamental to this book. But the main reason for reading it, and the main impression it creates, is its portrayal of west of Ireland life. Here are the conflicts, the supports, the tensions and the loyalties that characterised relations that remained, at the time, essentially colonial. There are issues of social class and the sustainability of livelihoods. Religion, of course, is never far from the agenda. But underpinning everything is a determination to survive, as individuals and as a community, to carry on despite everything that life and fate throw at you. Lucy does carry on, but in other ways her life stops when separation is understood, its overbearing reality never being accepted. She surely wants to realise her desires, but what are those desires? Does she allow herself the mental space to acknowledge them?

The Story of Lucy Gault is a hauntingly beautiful book. The writing is poetic, as well as crystal clear. The subject matter is murky, however, because this is a book about people who love one another, in their own, albeit detached ways.

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