Cover image for The story of Lucy Gault
Title:
The story of Lucy Gault
Author:
Trevor, William, 1928-2016.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2002.
Physical Description:
227 pages ; 23 cm
Language:
English
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.7 11.0 65927.
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780670031542
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

William Trevor has long been acknowledged as one of the most extraordinary writers of our time, with a particular insight into the workings of the human heart. In The Story of Lucy Gault, he has surpassed himself. The Gault family leads a life of privilege in early 1920s Ireland, but the threat of arson leads nine-year-old Lucy's parents to leave Ireland for England, her mother's home. Lucy cannot bear the thought of leaving Lahardane, their country house with its beautiful land and nearby beach, and a dog she has befriended. On the day before they are due to leave, Lucy runs away, hoping to convince her parents to stay, but instead she sets off a series of tragic misunderstandings that affect all of the inhabitants of Lahardane and the perpetrators of the failed arson attack for the rest of their lives. In this brilliant, profound and moving story of love, guilt and forgiveness, Trevor has written a novel that stands alongside the best literature in the English language.


Author Notes

William Trevor Cox was born in Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland on May 24, 1928. He received a degree in history from Trinity College in 1950. Before becoming a full-time author in 1965, he worked as a sculptor, a teacher, and a copywriter at an advertising agency. He exhibited his sculptures in Dublin and England and was joint winner of the International Year of the Political Prisoner art competition in 1952.

His first novel, A Standard of Behaviour, was published in 1958. His other novels include Other People's Worlds, Nights at the Alexandra, The Silence in the Garden, The Story of Lucy Gault, My House in Umbria, and Love and Summer. He won the Hawthornden Prize in 1964 for The Old Boys, the Whitbread Award in 1976 for The Children of Dynmouth, the Whitbread Award in 1983 for Fools of Fortune, and the Whitbread Award in 1994 for Felicia's Journey.

His short story collections include The Day We Got Drunk on Cake and Other Stories, The Ballroom of Romance and Other Stories, Beyond the Pale, A Bit on the Side, Cheating at Canasta, and The Mark-2 Wife. The Hill Bachelors received the 2001 Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award for Short Stories. He received the Allied Irish Banks' Prize in 1976, The Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence in 1992, the David Cohen British Literature Prize in 1999, and the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award in Irish Literature in 2008. In 1977, he was awarded an honorary CBE in recognition of his services to literature. He died on November 20, 2016 at the age of 88.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Trevor's new novel begins in the early 1920s in his native Ireland, which, at the time, was in the throes of civil war, with the old Anglo-Irish aristocracy under siege. One night, arsonists attempt to burn down the country home of Colonel Gault, a retired Irish officer in the British army who is married to an Englishwoman. Despite the fact that it breaks their hearts to do so, the Gaults decide to leave Ireland. The day before their planned departure, their little child, Lucy, runs away from home to show her parents her intense aversion to the relocation; however, the colonel and his wife believe their daughter has drowned herself in the ocean. They leave Ireland anyway, to find a venue in which they hope their guilt can be assuaged. They are immediately and forever incommunicado; they can't be informed that their little girl has been found and is being taken care of by the domestic couple left behind as caretakers of the property. Decades pass. Lucy grows into young womanhood and passes into middle age, still out of contact with her parents. Finally, Colonel Gault returns home, and Lucy learns her mother died during their exile in Switzerland. In her old age, Lucy tends to the now mentally incapacitated man who, as a young hoodlum, attempted to torch the Gault home so many years ago. This beautiful, haunting story of love and redemption rings with the resonance of a legend. --Brad Hooper YA/L: The story of the runaway child and family heartbreak will hook advanced readers. HR.


Publisher's Weekly Review

Trevor (Death in Summer) is one of the finest prose stylists writing today; his delicately shaded novels and stories often have a Chekhovian sense of loss and longing. This novel, with its elegiac tale of a quiet, sad life lived in the shadow of a wrecked childhood, could well have been penned by the Russian master. Lucy is nine years old when her father, a wealthy Irish army captain married to an Englishwoman, shoots at and wounds one of a trio of locals trying to set his Irish country house, Lahardane, afire in the 1920s. Captain Gault and his wife, Heloise, decide they must leave for England and safety, but Lucy, who has known no other home but Lahardane, flees into the woods on the eve of their departure and cannot be found. Eventually convinced she has drowned at a nearby beach, her parents leave for a life of wandering and grieving exile in Europe, utterly out of touch with their old life. Lucy, however, is discovered, starved but alive, days later by two faithful retainers, who with the aid of a family lawyer keep the house open as Lucy grows into womanhood. The possibility of love enters her life, but her passionate attachment to the remote place repels her potential suitor and she lives on alone. Eventually, after the death of her mother, her father returns to live with her for a while. She even gets to know the wounded youth who once tried to burn down the house, now an elderly man in a mental institution. Lucy ends her days at Lahardane, out of touch with the modern world, but still in thrall to the past. Trevor's deeply poetic sense of the Irish character and countryside, his magical evocation of the passing of time, have never been more eloquent. This is a book to be quietly cherished. (Sept. 30) Forecast: Admirers of the author will need no urging to seek this out, and widespread and positive review attention should help win new ones. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Little Lucy doesn't want to leave her lovely home in 1920s Ireland, but she causes a lot of trouble by deciding to run away. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Captain Everard Gault wounded the boy in the right shoulder on the night of June the twenty-first, 1921. Aiming above the trespassers' heads in the darkness, he fired the single shot from an upstairs window and then watched the three figures scuttling off, the wounded one assisted by his companions. They had come to fire the house, their visit expected because they had been before. On that occasion they had come later, in the early morning, just after one. The sheepdogs had seen them off, but within a week the dogs lay poisoned in the yard and Captain Gault knew that the intruders would be back. "We're stretched at the barracks, sir," Sergeant Talty had said when he came out from Enniseala. "Oh, stretched shocking, Captain." Lahardane wasn't the only house under threat; every week somewhere went up, no matter how the constabulary were spread. "Please God, there'll be an end to it," Sergeant Talty said, and went away. Martial law prevailed, since the country was in a state of unrest, one that amounted to war. No action was taken about the poisoning of the dogs. When daylight came on the morning after the shooting, blood could be seen on the sea pebbles of the turnaround in front of the house. Two petrol tins were found behind a tree. The pebbles were raked, a couple of bucketfuls that had been discoloured in the accident taken away. Captain Gault thought it would be all right then: a lesson had been learnt. He wrote to Father Morrissey in Enniseala, asking him to pass on his sympathy and his regret if the priest happened to hear who it was who'd been wounded. He had not sought to inflict an injury, only to make it known that a watch was being kept. Father Morrissey wrote back. He was always the wild one in that family, he concluded his comments on the event, but there was an awkwardness about his letter, about the choice of phrases and of words, as if he found it difficult to comment on what had occurred, as if he didn't understand that neither death nor injury had been intended. He had passed the message on, he wrote, but no acknowledgement had come back from the family he referred to. Captain Gault had been wounded himself. For six years, since he had come back an invalid from the trenches, he had carried fragments of shrapnel in his body, and they would always be there now. His injury at that time had brought his military career to an end: he would remain forever a captain, which was intensely a disappointment, since he had always imagined achieving much higher rank. But he was not, in other ways, a disappointed man. There was the great solace of his happy marriage, of the child his wife, Heloise, had borne him, of his house. There was no other place he might more happily have lived than beneath the slated roof of its three grey storeys, the stone softened by the white woodwork of the windows and the delicate fanlight above a white hall door. Flanking it on its right was the wide high archway of a cobbled yard, with cobbled passageways leading to an apple orchard and a garden. One half of the circle onto which the front rooms looked out was the gravel sweep; the other was a raised lawn that was separated from steeply rising woods by a curve of blue hydrangeas. The upstairs rooms at the back had a view of the sea as far as the sea's horizon. The origins of the Gaults in Ireland had centuries ago misted over. Previously of Norfolk-so it was believed within the family, although without much certainty-they had settled first of all in the far western reaches of County Cork. A soldier of fortune had established their modest dynasty, lying low there for reasons that were not known. Some time in the early eighteenth century the family had moved east, respectable and well-to-do by then, one son or another of each generation continuing the family's army connection. The land at Lahardane was purchased; the building of the house began. The long, straight avenue was made, lines of chestnut trees planted along it on either side, the woodlands of the glen laid out. Later generations planted the orchard, with stock from County Armagh; the garden, kept small, was created bit by bit. In 1769 Lord Townshend, the Lord Lieutenant, stayed at Lahardane; in 1809 Daniel O'Connell did when there wasn't a bedroom unoccupied at the Stuarts' Dromana. History touched the place in that way; but as well-remembered, as often talked about, were births and marriages and deaths, domestic incidents, changes and additions to this room or that, occasions of anger or reconciliation. Suffering a stroke, a Gault in 1847 lay afflicted for three years yet not insensible. There was a disastrous six months of card playing in 1872 during which field after field was lost to the neighbouring O'Reillys. There was the diphtheria outbreak that spread so rapidly and so tragically in 1901, sparing only the present Everard Gault and his brother in a family of five. Above the writing desk in the drawing room there was a portrait of a distant ancestor whose identity had been unknown for as long as anyone of the present could remember: a spare, solemn countenance where it was not whiskered, blue unemphatic eyes. It was the only portrait in the house, although since photography had begun there were albums that included the images of relatives and friends as well as those of the Gaults of Lahardane. All this-the house and the remnants of the pasture land, the seashore below the pale clay cliffs, the walk along it to the fishing village of Kilauran, the avenue over which the high branches of the chestnut trees now met-was as much part of Everard Gault as the features of his face were, the family traits that quite resembled a few of those in the drawing-room portrait, the smooth dark hair. Tall and straight-backed, a man who hid nothing of himself, slight in his ambitions now, he had long ago accepted that his destiny was to keep in good heart what had been his inheritance, to attract bees to his hives, to root up his failing apple trees and replace them. He swept the chimneys of his house himself, could repoint its mortar and replace its window glass. Creeping about on its roof, he repaired in the lead the small perforations that occurred from time to time, the Seccotine he squeezed into them effective for a while. In many of these tasks he was assisted by Henry, a slow-moving, heavily made man who rarely, in daytime, removed the hat from his head. Years ago Henry had married into the gate-lodge, of which he and Bridget were now the sole occupants, since no children had been born to them and Bridget's parents were no longer alive. Her father, with two men under him, had looked after the horses and seen to all that Henry on his own now saw to in the yard and the fields. Her mother had worked in the house, her grandmother before that. Bridget was as thickset as her husband, with strong wide shoulders and a capable manner: the kitchen was wholly in her charge. The bedroom maid, Kitty Teresa, assisted Heloise Gault in what had once been the duties of several indoor servants; old Hannah walked over from Kilauran once a week to wash the clothes and sheets and tablecloths, and to scrub the tiles of the hall and the stone floors at the back. The style of the past was no longer possible at Lahardane. The long avenue passed through the land that had become the O'Reillys' at the card table, when the Gaults of that time had been left with pasture enough only to support a modest herd of Friesians. Three days after the shooting in the night Heloise Gault read the letter that had come from Father Morrissey, then turned it over and read it again. She was a slender, slightly built woman in her late thirties, her long fair hair arranged in a style that complemented her features, imbuing a demure beauty with a hint of severity that was constantly contradicted by her smile. But her smile had not been much in evidence since the night she had been woken by a shot. Even though in the ordinary run of things she was not pusillanimous, Heloise Gault felt frightened. She, too, came of an army family and had taken it in her stride when, a few years before her marriage, she was left almost alone in the world on the death of her mother, who had been widowed during the war with the Boers. Courage came naturally to her in times of upheaval or grief, but was not as generously there as she imagined it would be when she reflected upon the attempt to burn down the house she and her child and her maid had been asleep in. There'd been, as well, the poisoning of the dogs and the unanswered message to the young man's family, the blood on the pebbles. "I'm frightened, Everard," she confessed at last, no longer keeping her feelings private. They knew each other well, the Captain and his wife. They had in common a certain way of life, an order of priorities and concerns. Their shared experience of death when they were young had drawn them close and in their marriage had made precious for them the sense of family that the birth of a child allowed. Heloise had once assumed that other children would be born to her, and still had not abandoned hope that one more at least might be. But in the meanwhile she was so convincingly persuaded by her husband that the lack of a son to inherit Lahardane was not a failure on her part that she experienced-and more and more as her only child grew up-gratitude for the solitary birth and for a trinity sustained by affection. "It's not like you to be frightened, Heloise." "All this has happened because I'm here. Because I am an English wife at Lahardane." She it was, Heloise insisted, who drew attention to the house, but her husband doubted it. He reminded her that what had been attempted at Lahardane was part of a pattern that was repeated all over Ireland. The nature of the house, the possession of land even though it had dwindled, the family's army connection, would have been enough to bring that trouble in the night. And he had to admit that the urge to cause destruction, whatever its origin, could not be assumed to have been stifled by the stand he'd taken. For some time afterwards Everard Gault slept in the afternoon and watched by night; and although no one disturbed his vigil, this concern with protection, and his wife's apprehension, created in the household further depths of disquiet, a nerviness that affected everyone, including in the end the household's child. --from The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor, Copyright © September 2002, Viking Press, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission. Excerpted from The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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