Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Book Look Review "The Story of Lucy Gault"
“The Story of Lucy Gault”
March is a time to read Irish and suffer. Read Irish? I’ve read Hemmingway; I’ve read Chekhov, what do you mean Irish? No one knows poverty and pain like an Irishman, not even those freezing cold Russians (sorry Dostoyevsky). It seems like centuries of oppression, famine and poverty produce an artist capable of taking us beyond the realm of ordinary hunger, ordinary love, and ordinary life. If you want to read about love, put down the romance novel and learn from a man who can reach down inside you and tug at the tender places. No one writes love and pain like an Irishman!
William Trevor has produced a novel with grace and style employing a scarcity of words to engage our mind and heart. Unlike many authors from the Isles, he resists the urge to write with flourishing adjectives but rather captures us with his sparse prose. “The Story of Lucy Gault” is a lovely, tragic tale written by an extraordinary Irish author.
Trevor begins the story of Lucy when she is a small eight year old child. The year is 1921 and the Irish countryside is in a state of political unrest. Lucy’s family home is a large estate by the sea near a small village called Enniseala. Her father’s family had owned Lahardane in County Cork for several generations but her mother was a Protestant Englishwoman and her father had served in the British army.
When three local young men crept up in the night with petrol cans to set his home on fire, Lucy’s father fired a warning shot which accidentally injured one of the intruders. Despite her father’s attempts, there can be no peace made between the religious and political enemies. As landowners and Protestants they had become a target for violence in their own country.
During the fearful preparations to leave their beloved home, Lucy runs away. Her naïve attempt to force her parents to stay brings tragic consequences for everyone involved. Lucy is lost. Everything is lost – her family, her childhood, her future. The guilt and punishments seem out of proportion to the crimes and mistakes. As the years pass love and forgiveness emerge, but it has been at such a terrible cost.
The long civil war in Ireland has ended in our time. With the exception of a few details, the peace agreements seem to have stopped the violence that caused so many to live in fear or leave their homes. William Trevor has written the heartbreaking fictional story of Lucy Gault. In many ways her story is Ireland’s story. We mourn the tale of Lucy and what she and her country have lost over many years, but we have hope for their redemption.