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Fools of Fortune (Penguin Classics)

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Penguin Classics is proud to welcome William Trevor—"Ireland’s answer to Chekhov" (The Boston Globe) and "one of the best writers of our era" (The Washington Post)—to our distinguished list of literary masters. In this award-winning novel, an informer’s body is found on the estate of a wealthy Irish family shortly after the First World War, and an appalling cycle of reveng Penguin Classics is proud to welcome William Trevor—"Ireland’s answer to Chekhov" (The Boston Globe) and "one of the best writers of our era" (The Washington Post)—to our distinguished list of literary masters. In this award-winning novel, an informer’s body is found on the estate of a wealthy Irish family shortly after the First World War, and an appalling cycle of revenge is set in motion. Led by a zealous sergeant, the Black and Tans set fire to the family home, and only young Willie and his mother escape alive. Fatherless, Willie grows into manhood while his alcoholic mother’s bitter resentment festers. And though he finds love, Willie is unable to leave the terrible injuries of the past behind. First time in Penguin Classics Winner of the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award


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Penguin Classics is proud to welcome William Trevor—"Ireland’s answer to Chekhov" (The Boston Globe) and "one of the best writers of our era" (The Washington Post)—to our distinguished list of literary masters. In this award-winning novel, an informer’s body is found on the estate of a wealthy Irish family shortly after the First World War, and an appalling cycle of reveng Penguin Classics is proud to welcome William Trevor—"Ireland’s answer to Chekhov" (The Boston Globe) and "one of the best writers of our era" (The Washington Post)—to our distinguished list of literary masters. In this award-winning novel, an informer’s body is found on the estate of a wealthy Irish family shortly after the First World War, and an appalling cycle of revenge is set in motion. Led by a zealous sergeant, the Black and Tans set fire to the family home, and only young Willie and his mother escape alive. Fatherless, Willie grows into manhood while his alcoholic mother’s bitter resentment festers. And though he finds love, Willie is unable to leave the terrible injuries of the past behind. First time in Penguin Classics Winner of the Whitbread Novel of the Year Award

30 review for Fools of Fortune (Penguin Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    This novel reminds me quite a bit of another novel by Trevor, The Story of Lucy Gault. Both involve a main character who disappears for 40 years and then returns. And like other Trevor novels, the main characters are Protestants in Catholic Ireland and a good part of the plot derives from “The Troubles,” the violence between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. But in this novel, the characters don’t all line up on traditional sides. The mother of the young boy who is the main character in the f This novel reminds me quite a bit of another novel by Trevor, The Story of Lucy Gault. Both involve a main character who disappears for 40 years and then returns. And like other Trevor novels, the main characters are Protestants in Catholic Ireland and a good part of the plot derives from “The Troubles,” the violence between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. But in this novel, the characters don’t all line up on traditional sides. The mother of the young boy who is the main character in the first half of the book is Protestant, but she sympathizes with the Catholic Irish cause as does her Protestant husband. In fact they go so far as to give money to one of the Irish leaders who visits their estate, essentially a grain mill. They give a home to a defrocked Catholic priest who acts as a tutor to their son. The first and second halves of the book basically have two different main characters. In the first half the focus is on a young man who sees most of his family killed and his home burned by the Black and Tan Protestant military. We never know why the Protestant military killed members of this Protestant family –perhaps they learned of their support given to the Irish cause or perhaps it was because they had a grain mill employee who was found hanging in a tree with his tongue cut out – the symbol for him being a ‘spy’ for the Irish. But they knew the man who was the military’s leader. After the burning of most of the house, the boy and his mother keep the mill going for income and some of their extended family and servants continue to live there. But the mother turns into a zombie. For the rest of her short life she never recovers from her shock and grief. Always dependent on alcohol, she is now a full-blown alcoholic. She is almost bed-ridden, uncommunicative and uninterested in life. She can only focus on the military leader who killed her husband. In the second half of the book, the focus shifts to the boy’s female cousin who arrives from England. She and the young man are in love but can’t connect. Essentially the boy is too damaged to communicate along normal social lines. She goes to a girl’s school in Switzerland and has a terrible time there. She returns to England, pregnant, and goes to live at the Irish estate in hopes that the young man will marry her. Forty years later… A quote: “The most important things of all happen by chance.” A good story. Like other Trevor novels, understated with excellent writing. It’s set in County Cork in southern Ireland and Enniscorthy (Colm Toibin’s territory!) is mentioned several times. Photo of Cork from cdn2.wanderlust.co.uk Photo of the author from irishexaminer.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    This novel probably contains examples of every theme and narrative device I'd previously come across in William Trevor's writing - which makes it the perfect book to have been reading on the day I heard that he had died. I had picked it up in reaction to a contemporary novel that had disappointed me, feeling sure that William Trevor never would. He hasn't. This novel probably contains examples of every theme and narrative device I'd previously come across in William Trevor's writing - which makes it the perfect book to have been reading on the day I heard that he had died. I had picked it up in reaction to a contemporary novel that had disappointed me, feeling sure that William Trevor never would. He hasn't.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    Reading Fools of Fortune I couldn’t do away with the feeling that Charles Dickens had personally taught William Trevor the way he must write. William Trevor measures out misfortune for all his characters with a very generous hand. His scrupulous attitude to all the tiny details and his psychological subtleness make his narration especially expressive and convincing. I left the chair which he had placed close to the hearth for me, and stood by the window. The sky was grey and heavy. I watched Reading Fools of Fortune I couldn’t do away with the feeling that Charles Dickens had personally taught William Trevor the way he must write. William Trevor measures out misfortune for all his characters with a very generous hand. His scrupulous attitude to all the tiny details and his psychological subtleness make his narration especially expressive and convincing. I left the chair which he had placed close to the hearth for me, and stood by the window. The sky was grey and heavy. I watched the softly falling snow, gathering already on the roofs and the cobbles of the mill-yard. The green-faced clock gave the time as twenty past eleven. Mechanically, I remembered your saying that it was always fast, and in the same mechanical way I wondered if the snow would affect it. Would the big hand, travelling upwards after the half-hour, come to an untimely halt because of what had accumulated on it? We all live in the dark shadow of the history… And the time, we live in, always leaves a deep imprint on our fates…

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lynne King

    Reciprocated love in whatever form it comes can indeed endure a lifetime. However, what would the case be for a young couple in love, who do not realize at the time that forty years would pass before they saw each other again. Even among the best of its kind, William Trevor's Fools of Fortune (1984) stands out as a Big House novel of singular complexity and scope. In this richly allusive work, the story of the house at Kilneagh between 1918 and 1983 is fashioned as a tragic and symbolic disti Reciprocated love in whatever form it comes can indeed endure a lifetime. However, what would the case be for a young couple in love, who do not realize at the time that forty years would pass before they saw each other again. Even among the best of its kind, William Trevor's Fools of Fortune (1984) stands out as a Big House novel of singular complexity and scope. In this richly allusive work, the story of the house at Kilneagh between 1918 and 1983 is fashioned as a tragic and symbolic distillation of Irish history from the sixteenth century to the present day.” As ever I’m always intrigued by the title and did in fact come across it quite early in this work when Willie’s father makes reference to it on one of their walks to the mill. And I do believe there is some comparison here with Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet", when Romeo suddenly announces O, I am fortune's fool. Is this in fact referring to fate in the meaning of being at the mercy of the elements? As is evident in the lives of William Quinton (AKA Willie) and Marianne Woodcombe, they are also star-crossed lovers. In fact they only show their love for one another on one occasion in their youth, resulting in a rather unusual daughter who would be called Imelda. There is something about Irish writers that is rather compelling to read. It is also interesting that many Irish authors have to live away from Ireland before they are able to write about the country of their birth so enthusiastically. James Joyce is a typical example here. But even though Trevor lived in Dorset in England for many years, he always insisted he was Irish through and through. His works display an ease of writing which makes the most trifling thing appear interesting. There is also a certain brevity in the structure of his sentences that I find rather appealing. As for the story, well I find it fascinating, which begins in 1918 with the backdrop of the Anglo/Irish troubles, and with the Black and Tans living in the nearby town of Lough. Eight year old Willie is happy living at Kilneagh, where his family have lived for generations. He father owns a mill and Willie knows that he will eventually be the owner. Everything changes though overnight when Doyle an employee at the mill is murdered. He had a rather gruesome death. The repercussions are dreadful… There are also some very amusing sections when Willie is sent to boarding school. I couldn't stop laughing... William Trevor died in November of last year and I’m sure that he’s keeping everyone entertained where he is! God bless him. All in all a wonderful book! To be reread…

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    This book shares many qualities with William Trevor's later novel The Story of Lucy Gault, which I rated very highly when I read it a couple of years ago, and in some ways this one is even better. Once again the story concerns a Protestant family in the Catholic south that has seen better days, and once again pivotal events cast very long shadows. The setting is Kilneagh, a big house in rural county Cork that is the seat of the Quinton family. Although Protestant, the family has a history of unus This book shares many qualities with William Trevor's later novel The Story of Lucy Gault, which I rated very highly when I read it a couple of years ago, and in some ways this one is even better. Once again the story concerns a Protestant family in the Catholic south that has seen better days, and once again pivotal events cast very long shadows. The setting is Kilneagh, a big house in rural county Cork that is the seat of the Quinton family. Although Protestant, the family has a history of unusual sympathy with the local Catholics. Across the water in a grander house in Dorset, the Woodcombe family has seen three of its daughters marry Quintons and move to Kilneagh. At the start of the story the last of these, Anna, and her husband William, have two daughters and a son Willie, whose childhood is central to the first half of the book. After an informer for the Black and Tans is found hanged on the estate, the Tans take a brutal revenge, setting fire to the house, and killing William, his daughters and several estate workers. Afterwards Willie, his mother and a loyal housemaid move to Cork, and Anna slides into alcoholism as we follow Willie's escapades in the boarding school his father attended near Dublin. Anna's sister comes to visit accompanied by her daughter Marianne, whose doomed relationship with Willie dominates the rest of the book (view spoiler)[. After Anna kills herself, Marianne and her mother return for the funeral, and Marianne spends a night with Willie. In the next part we follow Marianne to a finishing school in Switzerland, where she discovers she is pregnant and returns to Ireland once again in search of Willie, who has disappeared to take revenge on his father's killer. Marianne chooses to stay in Kilneagh rather than returning to her parents who want her child to be adopted. The third part finds the child Imelda at Kilneagh, unable to escape the shadows of the past. The final three parts are all much shorter, bringing the story up to date and adding a note of partial redemption. (hide spoiler)] The book is wonderfully evocative but hauntingly sad. This is my new favourite Trevor novel.

  6. 5 out of 5

    ·Karen·

    "Tell me tales of thy first love-- April hopes, the fools of chance; Till the graves begin to move, And the dead begin to dance. "Fill the can, and fill the cup: All the windy ways of men Are but dust that rises up, And is lightly laid again. Alfred, Lord Tennyson: The Vision of Sin "There's not much left in anyone's life once murder has been committed." says Father Kilgariff (who is not a Father at all). And although his words refer to the murderer, those victims who survive a murderous attack, th "Tell me tales of thy first love-- April hopes, the fools of chance; Till the graves begin to move, And the dead begin to dance. "Fill the can, and fill the cup: All the windy ways of men Are but dust that rises up, And is lightly laid again. Alfred, Lord Tennyson: The Vision of Sin "There's not much left in anyone's life once murder has been committed." says Father Kilgariff (who is not a Father at all). And although his words refer to the murderer, those victims who survive a murderous attack, they too have not much left. Pain, anaesthetized with the most readily available drug. The shame of being pitied. And then there is revenge. William Trevor has a gossamer touch to portray lead in the soul. He has tight control on a tale of evil unleashed. He will take your heart and squeeze, squeeze. But never wring or wrench. Delicate, precise, and utterly devastating, he can distil four hundred years of Anglo-Irish history into a story told in less than two hundred pages. Incomparable, matchless perfection. A master class.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    I read this book as part of the 2019 Mookse Madness Tournament. … an army colonel who was a poor relations of the Woodcombes of Woodcombe Park found himself stationed with his regiment in Fermoy: his daughter, too married a Quinton and became mistress of Kilneagh. His second daughter married an English curate …. This couple’s only child was bought up in Woodcoombe Rectory and later caused history to repeat itself, as in Anglo Irish relationships it has a way of doing; she fell in love with a Q I read this book as part of the 2019 Mookse Madness Tournament. … an army colonel who was a poor relations of the Woodcombes of Woodcombe Park found himself stationed with his regiment in Fermoy: his daughter, too married a Quinton and became mistress of Kilneagh. His second daughter married an English curate …. This couple’s only child was bought up in Woodcoombe Rectory and later caused history to repeat itself, as in Anglo Irish relationships it has a way of doing; she fell in love with a Quinton cousin, and became in time the third English girl to come and live at Kilneagh. The story starts with Willie Quinton looking back on his own childhood and youth - starting in Ireland in 1918 where as an eight year old he lives on the Anglo-Irish family estate - kilneagh - with his father, mother and two sisters, taught Latin and Irish history (and the years of English occupation) by a defrocked Catholic priest. His first-person story chapters are sometimes bookmarked by asides to a second person “you” - his English cousin (daughter of his mother’s sister, married to a curate and living in the rectory next to the family’s English stately home - Woodcombe Park) Marianne. What starts as an idyllic childhood is overshadowed by Irish politics - the Quinton’s despite their Protestant faith are longstanding supporters of Home Rule and Michael Collins is a frequent visitor to the estate, the return of soldiers from the war to the village adds complications especially as one who is taken back to the Quinton estate is suspected as being a spy for Churchill’s infamous Black and Tans. When that soldiers is murdered a spiral of violence is unleashed whose impact carries on over generations This starts with a Black and Tan sergeant leading a raid on the Quinton estate - burning much of the home and murdering Michael’s father and sisters. Michael’s story continues through his school years and into his youth. Michael’s school career starts at a small school in Cork, where the teacher Miss Hallwell becomes obsessed with him and his back story and then goes on to his father’s boarding school. It contiues through his meeting with Marianne, when Michael ignores his increasingly isolated and depressed mother’s wishes and invites his Aunt to visit Ireland. (view spoiler)[Michael and Marianne fall in love, although each unsure of the other’s feelings, and encouraged by his mother’s maid Josephine, herself having lost out in love, Michael aims to write to set out his feelings only for his mother to committ suicide that day. Before her death she became repeatedly obsessed with her husband’s murdered - and the fact that no one thought enough of their family to revenge his death. (hide spoiler)] The story is then continued in first person by Marianne including her time at a Finishing School in Switzerland and her return to the old Quinton estate. (view spoiler)[In Dublin for Michael’s mother’s funeral - and told by Josephine of Michael’s previous feeling for her - Marianne goes on her last night to Michael’s room. Going to the Finishing School, run by a lecherous man and his colluding wife, she realises she is pregnant but returning to Ireland is shocked to find Michael gone. Eventually she suddenly realises from the reactions of others that he murdered the Black and Tans officer in revenge and is now in self-imposed exile, and fired up but her sense of injustice at Anglo-Irish relationships she decides to live in the estate and bring her daughter Imelda up there, depsite everyone else’s advices to return to England. Looking for Michael she visits Miss Halliwell who, still in love with her memories of Michael, curses her as a liar and then when she fears her story may be true calls her daughter to be an abomination and product of sin and hatred. A brief third party section covers Imelda’s childhood - her confusion about her father who is regarded as some kind of hero for his actions, haunted by dreams of the burning of her grandfather and Aunts and then, after she finds out more details of her father’s brutal knifing of the retired Black and Tans offucer (and the letter from Miss Halliwell condeming her existence) goes mad. At the book’s end Michal returns from exile and in their 70s starts a life with Marianne and Imelda. (hide spoiler)] Overall this was a beautifully written and strong book with a number of inter-related themes: The history of Anglo-Irish relationships and the way in which the consequences of those relationships have born out very differently on either side of the Irish Sea, interesting imperial/colonial history in one, but very terribly consequential to the present day in the other I had never heard of the Battle of the Yellow Ford until Father Kilgarriff told me. And now he wishes he hadn’t. The furious Elizabeth cleverly transformed the defeat of Sir Harry Bagenal into Victory, ensuring that her Irish battlefield might continue for as long as it was profitable … Just another Irish story it had seemed to you …… But the battlefield continuing is part of the pattern I see everywhere around me, as your exile is also. How could we have rebuilt Kilneagh and watched our children playing amomg the shadows of destruction? The battlefield has never quietened. (And of course this has been exhibited more recently by the Irish Border Brexit issues) How this has impacted the two countries concepts of history and tradition - captured at the book’s start written in 1983 which contrasts the heritage industry around Woodcombe with the quiet decay - and sad memories - of Kilneagh: The sense of the past, so well preserved in the great house and the town in Dorset, is only found in the echoes at Kineagh, in the voices of the cousins. The way in which violence begats violence and leads to a cycle of inescapable but tragic destiny: There’s not much left in a life when a murder has been committed. That moment when I guessed the truth in Mr Langan’s office; that moment when [Imelda] opened the secret drawer; that moment when [Willie] stood at his mother’s bedroom door and saw her dead. After each moment there was as little chance for any one of us as there was for Kinleagh after the soldier’s wrath. Truncated lives, creatures of the shadows. Fools of fortune, as his father would have said: ghosts we became There were some elements which struck me as false: Michael’s recollections of his early days - well before the trauma of the fire which one can imagine would have stuck with him - are simply too detailed. Trevor like too many novelists and drama/soap-writers should have set up a fertility clinic - as, as happens far too often in fiction, a single sexual encounter produces a baby. Trevor as well as being a 5 times Booker nominee and three times Whitbread best novel winner (including for this novel) was a renowned short-story writer - and that helped me to understand some of my least favourite and most favourite aspects of this novel.. At times I felt that some parts of this story - in particular the parts at Willie’s boarding school and even more so Marianne’s stay at the Swiss finishing school were effectively extraenous short stories. Julian Barnes, in Guardian review, of Trevor’s last and postomous short story collection - relayed an anecdote from his literary agent wife, that one technique Trevor uses to inspire his stories “he liked to sit on park benches and eavesdrop on conversations; but that he never wanted to listen to a whole story, so would get up and move on as soon as he heard the small amount he needed to trigger his further imaginings” It strikes me that Trevor uses a similar technique here - typically the story leads right up to but not within the main pieces of action, and often a true understanding of what happens is only uncovered (for the reader and sometimes for the characters in the book) over time Some of the strongest and most complex characters - Josephine, Miss Halliwell - are side characters And the book ends just as its crucial relationship starts to develop (40-50 years after its tentative start ), and with the realisation that perhaps the cycle of violence has come to an end with love replacing hate. “Murmuring to one another, the elderly couple rise and make their way outside ….One hand grasps another, awkward in elderliness ….. They do not speak of other matters …..They are grateful for what they have been allowed, and for the mercy of their daughter’s quiet world in which there is no ugliness"

  8. 5 out of 5

    Tony

    It is 1983. And so this begins. But we know from those few notes that we will not linger long there. We will be taken back, in sepia tones; taken back a lifetime. In Dorset the great house at Woodcombe Park bustles with life. In Ireland the more modest Kilneagh is as quiet as a grave. You don't need magic beans to hear Dickens there, looking back on the best and worst of times; and also looking back at the counterpoise of two countries. This: Her mother said something strange: that when you looked a It is 1983. And so this begins. But we know from those few notes that we will not linger long there. We will be taken back, in sepia tones; taken back a lifetime. In Dorset the great house at Woodcombe Park bustles with life. In Ireland the more modest Kilneagh is as quiet as a grave. You don't need magic beans to hear Dickens there, looking back on the best and worst of times; and also looking back at the counterpoise of two countries. This: Her mother said something strange: that when you looked at the map Ireland and England seemed like lovers. 'Don't you think so, Mr. Lanigan? Does the map remind you curiously of an embrace? A most extraordinary embrace to throw up all this.' Yet we know, and are told here, that Ireland and England, if lovers, are star-crossed ones. That history works its way into this story, where love remains largely unrequited, and, instead, misunderstanding rules. Destruction casts shadows which are always there: surely you see that...? Trevor takes his time, but he slowly adds color to the pictures he opens. He makes us stop, and look at things now - It is 1983 - and in those soft shadows of destruction we see history writ large and small: remnants of a fire, a tree the other man had been hanged from, linoleum faded to a nondescript speckling, walls - an oatmeal shade that did not catch the eye. Such snapshots filled my head as I read this - it is 2015. Treated railroad ties, bolted together by a father and son thirty years ago, meant to hold a hillside for a garden, are rotted now. Further back, initials in concrete, two brothers' work, hard against a cellar door. Once, when the doors were opened, a man, a neighbor we didn't really know, jumped there. The initials came after, would still be there. The damp, damp smell of too many floods. A kitchen, impossibly small now, like returning to a grade school desk. How did it all fit in there? How did it all fit in? Just another Irish story it had seemed to you and perhaps, if you ever think of it, it still does. But the battlefield continuing is part of the pattern I see everywhere around me.... How could we in the end have pretended? How could we have rebuilt Kilneagh and watched our children playing among the shadows of destruction? The battlefield has never quietened.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    Set in Ireland, the story is told in different voices: the main ones those of Willie Quinton, and his cousin, Marianne. Willie tells his story in kind of an unwritten letter format, looking back over the years. The same is true of Marianne. The story that follows is tragic. But after reading The Story of Lucy Gault, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe William Trevor is able to write anything but tragedy. Willie tells of the years of his childhood, which was tragically interrupted after his mother an Set in Ireland, the story is told in different voices: the main ones those of Willie Quinton, and his cousin, Marianne. Willie tells his story in kind of an unwritten letter format, looking back over the years. The same is true of Marianne. The story that follows is tragic. But after reading The Story of Lucy Gault, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe William Trevor is able to write anything but tragedy. Willie tells of the years of his childhood, which was tragically interrupted after his mother and father became involved in the cause for Irish independence from Britain after WWI. It was at that time that a group known as the Black & Tans came in to Ireland from England. minor digression: Back to the internet I went for more help with Irish history and found that the Black and Tans were mostly former soldiers sent to Ireland by the government in London after 1918 to assist the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) in its work against those who pressed for independence, usually violently. back to the storyline: Anyway, without giving away the show, the peaceful childhood life enjoyed by Willie is interrupted having to do with the conflict between the IRA and the Black and Tans. He goes on to the school his father had attended; and it is then that he meets his cousin Marianne for the first time. It was love at first sight. At their next meeting tragedy strikes which affects both Willie & Marianne and the rest of the family. Fools of fortune is really about the sad legacy of the troubled times in Ireland; it is about obsession & justice. While it may be a very quick & easy read, don't let that fool you. The book is quite complex. If you are at all interested in Irish history, you will enjoy this book. Plus, William Trevor is a great story teller, leading me to want to grab up everything this man has written.

  10. 4 out of 5

    A. Mary

    There isn't an Irish writer more dependable than William Trevor. This book is a love story, a star-crossed love story even, because the fact of the matter is that Fortune plays its part and there's no way of knowing. The family at Kilneagh is an Anglo-Irish family, a Protestant family, with sympathies for the independence movement. Trevor takes some basic ingredients of Irish stories--religion, revolution, the Big House--and wraps them around a few individual lives is such a way that rends the h There isn't an Irish writer more dependable than William Trevor. This book is a love story, a star-crossed love story even, because the fact of the matter is that Fortune plays its part and there's no way of knowing. The family at Kilneagh is an Anglo-Irish family, a Protestant family, with sympathies for the independence movement. Trevor takes some basic ingredients of Irish stories--religion, revolution, the Big House--and wraps them around a few individual lives is such a way that rends the heart. Willie, Marianne, Imelda, Father Kilgarriff, Aunt Pansy, Aunt Fitzeustace, Mr. Derenczy, Josephine, Mr. and Mrs. Quinton, and the little sisters--no one who lives in that house or works on its grounds is outside of the events that swirl around it. Sometimes, everything is changed, and "changed utterly," by other people's actions. We're all the fools of fortune. The book's structure is vital to the telling, and it becomes very clear why Marianne has to take over the narrative. The plotting is so smooth, and Trevor even builds in a mystery, one that I admired so much when I realized it, just one page before Marianne does. In the end, saintliness and madness come down to the stories we tell about the movements of Fortune. This is a thoughtful, complex, book, well crafted by the surest hand.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    It was in 2000 that I first read William Trevor. The book was Felicia's Journey, which I loved. Why did I not continue reading his work in the intervening years? I cannot answer that, except that now I think I will read more of his work, and soon, too. Fools of Fortune is an earlier novel, one that, apparently, Graham Greene called his best novel. Trevor takes three lives, intertwines them, and stretches them out over many decades. It all begins in Ireland, where the Black and Tans take a grueso It was in 2000 that I first read William Trevor. The book was Felicia's Journey, which I loved. Why did I not continue reading his work in the intervening years? I cannot answer that, except that now I think I will read more of his work, and soon, too. Fools of Fortune is an earlier novel, one that, apparently, Graham Greene called his best novel. Trevor takes three lives, intertwines them, and stretches them out over many decades. It all begins in Ireland, where the Black and Tans take a gruesome vengeance upon William Quinton's family because one of their informers is killed on his land. His son, also called William, struggles on. He seems drawn to his cousin Marianne, who, feeling sorry for him, sleeps with one one night. Out of this coupling, a daughter, Imelda, is born. But by then, Willie is long gone. Never before have I seen silence and indirectness exert such a powerful influence on a story. It has only been minutes since I read the last paragraph, and I am still struggling to find words to describe the novel's power.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robert Sheard

    I've read a few others by Trevor and admire him as a prose stylist. But this story of unrelenting bleakness was just too grim for me to say I enjoyed the reading experience. At times, it felt like I was reading Thomas Hardy at his darkest. At other times it was like reading a comedic social satire. This might be one of those novels where one's reaction to it will depend on one's state of mind going into it. I've been in a minor reading funk and this isn't the kind of book that could pull me out I've read a few others by Trevor and admire him as a prose stylist. But this story of unrelenting bleakness was just too grim for me to say I enjoyed the reading experience. At times, it felt like I was reading Thomas Hardy at his darkest. At other times it was like reading a comedic social satire. This might be one of those novels where one's reaction to it will depend on one's state of mind going into it. I've been in a minor reading funk and this isn't the kind of book that could pull me out of it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    This is a moving, deeply emotional Irish story (in the main). Now that I am forced to write something I realize I did not mark it high enough so will bump up stars. Read Tony's review as he has it right. I was already reading a collection of Trevor's short stories, not finished with that yet and had to bop back into this app to say that this book saddened me. How could it not? Trevor did not tie up conflicts/troubles in pretty bows. This is a moving, deeply emotional Irish story (in the main). Now that I am forced to write something I realize I did not mark it high enough so will bump up stars. Read Tony's review as he has it right. I was already reading a collection of Trevor's short stories, not finished with that yet and had to bop back into this app to say that this book saddened me. How could it not? Trevor did not tie up conflicts/troubles in pretty bows.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Val

    The Quinlan family are Anglo-Irish protestants living in a big house and owning a mill; they are also republicans and friends of Michael Collins at the time of the Irish War of Independence and Civil War. The household includes the parents, a son, two younger daughters, two aunts, a former priest, a cook, two maids, an elderly gardener and his son, and several dogs. Their life is shown in detail and seems idyllic. William Quinlan senior reemploys an unpopular mill worker, who is later killed as a The Quinlan family are Anglo-Irish protestants living in a big house and owning a mill; they are also republicans and friends of Michael Collins at the time of the Irish War of Independence and Civil War. The household includes the parents, a son, two younger daughters, two aunts, a former priest, a cook, two maids, an elderly gardener and his son, and several dogs. Their life is shown in detail and seems idyllic. William Quinlan senior reemploys an unpopular mill worker, who is later killed as an informer on Quinlan land. The local 'Black and Tan' sergeant leads a group of men who burn the house down. The father, two daughters and the cook burn to death; the gardener and his son are shot, and their house burned as well. The mother and son survive and move to Cork. Luckily the other members of the household were all away at the time. The repercussions of that night last for many years. The book follows Willie Quinlan through school, and then his cousin Marianne, who he meets on a visit and falls in love with, and later their daughter Imelda. It is a beautifully written book, with a lot of sadness. All the characters are well drawn and believable, although the latter half relies heavily on Willie not saying he was going away (he did not need to say why).

  15. 5 out of 5

    Krissa

    Ireland is the setting of so many heartbreaks, and for that alone I would have enjoyed the novel. I'm also a fan of the epic/family style, and for that too, it was enjoyable. But I wasn't left with much, when it was all over. More than halfway through the book the narrative switches from the main character to the people around him and I found it jarring and distancing, and it started to read like a Charlotte Bronte hankerchief-soaker, with worse and worse befalling everyone. I don't know. I loved Ireland is the setting of so many heartbreaks, and for that alone I would have enjoyed the novel. I'm also a fan of the epic/family style, and for that too, it was enjoyable. But I wasn't left with much, when it was all over. More than halfway through the book the narrative switches from the main character to the people around him and I found it jarring and distancing, and it started to read like a Charlotte Bronte hankerchief-soaker, with worse and worse befalling everyone. I don't know. I loved Trevor's short fiction, and the writing is as strong and true, but something happened when he switched perspectives that left me feeling a little high and dry.

  16. 4 out of 5

    George

    A poignant, sad, tragic, haunting story set in Ireland, mainly in the 1920s and 1930s. The Quinton family live in a large house, ‘Kilneagh’, near Cork, Ireland. The family is of British descent, are protestants, but support the Irish independence movement. A British informer is killed on the Quinton’s estate in 1918. In retribution, British Black and Tams torch the Kilneagh family home killing Mr Quinton and his two daughters. Willie Quinton grows into manhood while his bitter, grieving alcoholi A poignant, sad, tragic, haunting story set in Ireland, mainly in the 1920s and 1930s. The Quinton family live in a large house, ‘Kilneagh’, near Cork, Ireland. The family is of British descent, are protestants, but support the Irish independence movement. A British informer is killed on the Quinton’s estate in 1918. In retribution, British Black and Tams torch the Kilneagh family home killing Mr Quinton and his two daughters. Willie Quinton grows into manhood while his bitter, grieving alcoholic mother becomes more resentful. Willie falls in love with his English cousin, Marianne. An event occurs that has long term ramifications. A worthwhile read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    “Oh fool of fortune” is a cliche’d comment made by adolescent Willie’s father which summarily dismisses anyone who has had bad luck. The phrase comes from Shakespeare’s Romeo who says “I am fortune’s fool,” and the novel expands the father’s stock phrase into a family tragedy which grows out of the historical events of the Irish rebellion against the British . Officially the war began in l916 and went on for six years., but the consequences in the lives of individuals, the “fortune”, that buffet “Oh fool of fortune” is a cliche’d comment made by adolescent Willie’s father which summarily dismisses anyone who has had bad luck. The phrase comes from Shakespeare’s Romeo who says “I am fortune’s fool,” and the novel expands the father’s stock phrase into a family tragedy which grows out of the historical events of the Irish rebellion against the British . Officially the war began in l916 and went on for six years., but the consequences in the lives of individuals, the “fortune”, that buffets and tears apart these individual lives, is one that reverberates down through the decades to when the novel opens in l983. Caught in the middle of this war is an English family with an estate in Ireland, and its story will be told through the perspectives of three persons whose lives were forever impacted by an act of violence – Willie, Marianne, and their love child, Ismelda. The prosperous estate which operated a mill was supervised by the father. He supported the Irish cause but hoped for a peaceful resolution and invoked the name of the great 19th century leader, Daniel O’Connell who worked tirelessly for Irish reforms. But Ireland’s history took a violent turn, and in retaliation for what was suspected support for the hated British occupiers, the Black and Tans, the estate was attacked and burned. Willie’s father is murdered, and his two sisters are burned to death in the fire. The remainder of the novel depicts how the survivors try to resume some kind of normalcy. In the end the terrible events of the past overwhelm them. A descriptive sentence that seems slight but evokes the opposites of disruption and calm of the novel begins, “Beside the ruins, a picnic was spread out on a tablecloth.” The accounts of these three lives are told from the perspective of each of them. They proceed in a leisurely fashion giving details, for instance, of their experiences at boarding schools. They don’t directly relate to the central tragedy of the story, but I think are there to give a sense of the personality of these characters Willie finds cruelty and deception at his school, as does Marianne in her Swiss school, but there are moments of humor as well for Willie. His mother never recovers from the deaths of her husband and daughters and descends into madness and suicide. That will prompt an overpowering sense of vengeance in Willie and will lead to an exile that will separate him from his cousin, Marianne. Their brief love affair results in unwed Marianne giving birth to Ismelda who, like her grandmother, will descend into her own form of madness. Another evocative sentence, one that the overly sensitive child, Ismelda, overhears; “Destruction casts shadows which are always there. . .we will never escape the shadows of destruction that pervade Kilneagh [the Irish estate that was destroyed]. Each of the narrative perspectives are not entirely clear as to what has happened, and that gives the novel a sense of reality. As in life, there are always discrepancies and gaps that have to be filled in, something the novel does masterfully. It emotionally excavates the past , the Irish rebellion and the cost to individuals who do indeed become “fools” to fortune.

  18. 5 out of 5

    R.L.

    Κριτική στα Ελληνικά πιο κάτω.... This is a moody novel, featuring an old-fashioned prose, while using some modern narrating techniques-no matter how contradicting this might sound. The story centers at first around the late 1910s/early 1920s, although there is background history from way earlier, then moves on decades latter. The setting is a bit of Dorset and lots of co Cork and a bit of Switzerland and Italy thrown in. Although the political events of this era are very tense and there is even M Κριτική στα Ελληνικά πιο κάτω.... This is a moody novel, featuring an old-fashioned prose, while using some modern narrating techniques-no matter how contradicting this might sound. The story centers at first around the late 1910s/early 1920s, although there is background history from way earlier, then moves on decades latter. The setting is a bit of Dorset and lots of co Cork and a bit of Switzerland and Italy thrown in. Although the political events of this era are very tense and there is even Michael Collins appearing in the book, there isn’t very straightforward mention or analysis of those events, other than the great impact some incidents had on the main characters, the Quinton/Woodcombe families and the supported characters. This might make the book a bit hard to decipher for people who aren’t familiar with Ireland’s history. But personally I have some basic knowledge of the events and anyhow the author focuses mostly on what impact history, fortune, larger events might have on your average person, caught in the randomness of it all. The author mainly tells his story and leaves the thinking to the reader. Many things to contemplate here and lots of strong emotions too…. The plot is more tight at the beginning, then it strays a lot, with many developments left unsaid and many decisions unexplained. Some plot elements are farfetched or not completely necessary. The narration style changes from chapter to chapter too and needs some getting used to. I understand what the author tried to do, but I feel the final chapters got a bit too watered down and didn’t make much sense. The prose is somehow dry, while there wasn’t much explanation on why some characters acted as they did. I didn’t like the author driving crazy one of the characters either. Still, the book held my interest and on some aspects it is very moving and didactic. Not something I’ll rush to read again soon, but definitely something I’m glad I did read! 3½/5 Ένα βιβλίο αρκετά παλιομοδίτικο κατά κάποιο τρόπο αλλά από μια άποψη και πολύ μοντέρνο, με διαχρονικά μηνύματα. Νομίζω ότι βοηθάει αν κάποιος γνωρίζει την Ιρλανδική ιστορία, ιδίως του 20ου αιώνα, αν και το βασικότερο θέμα που θίγει ο συγγραφέας είναι πως τα γεγονότα της Ιστορίας και η Μοίρα μπορεί να επηρεάσουν τις ζωές των απλών ανθρώπων, θέμα που είναι πανανθρώπινο και σίγουρα θα αγγίξει τον αναγνώστη. Το βιβλίο περιστρέφεται γύρω από την ζωή κυρίως της οικογένειας Quinton και Woodcombe στα τέλη της δεκαετίας του 1910 και στην δεκαετία του 1920 με αναφορές στην προϊστορία της οικογένειας και αργότερα στην τύχη τους τις επόμενες δεκαετίες. Αρχικά το ύφος του συγγραφέα φαίνεται κάπως ξερό και χρειάζεται χρόνος να το συνηθίσει κανείς, ενώ ο τρόπος αφήγησης αλλάζει από κεφάλαιο σε κεφάλαιο. Στα πρώτα κεφάλαια έχουμε πρωτοπρόσωπη αφήγηση από διαφορετικούς χαρακτήρες, προς το τέλος έχουμε αποσπάσματα ημερολογίων, επιστολών και κυρίως τριτοπρόσωπη αφήγηση. Η πλοκή είναι πιο δεμένη στην αρχή, ενώ προς το τέλος μένουν πολλά κενά, με γεγονότα μισοειπωμένα και αρκετά άλματα στην ιστορία και στην εξέλιξη των ηρώων στα οποία δεν στέκεται ο συγγραφέας. Κάποιες επιλογές των ηρώων μένουν μάλλον ανεξήγητες, ιδιαίτερα προς το πολύ τέλος του βιβλίου και ξενίζουν κάπως τον αναγνώστη…. Ο συγγραφέας καταφέρνει ωστόσο να δημιουργήσει ατμόσφαιρα ενώ μέσα από την δραματική αυτή ιστορία καθώς και από την έμμεση μόνο αναφορά στο ευρύτερο ιστορικό πλαίσιο, εκμαιεύει δυνατά συναισθήματα και προκαλεί τον αναγνώστη να σκεφτεί πάνω στην ματαιότητα του ανθρώπου που συνθλίβεται στα γρανάζια ευρύτερων διαδικασιών που συνήθως δεν είναι στο χέρι του να ελέγξει. Ίσως όχι ένα βιβλίο που θα διάβαζα ξανά σύντομα, αλλά σίγουρα ένα βιβλίο που άξιζε την ανάγνωση και με το παραπάνω.... 3½/5

  19. 4 out of 5

    Reece Carter

    I don't know why, I just couldn't get into this book. Even though this book takes place in the 20th century, I got strong Elizabethan vibes -- vibes I do not enjoy reading -- from the beginning of the novel. Additionally, I think this book wasn't very interesting plot-wise. Rich family loses lives in the midst of political conflict and the ramifications of the loss propagate through subsequent generations. The mother's mental illness is genetically (?) passed down to her granddaughter. Not very I don't know why, I just couldn't get into this book. Even though this book takes place in the 20th century, I got strong Elizabethan vibes -- vibes I do not enjoy reading -- from the beginning of the novel. Additionally, I think this book wasn't very interesting plot-wise. Rich family loses lives in the midst of political conflict and the ramifications of the loss propagate through subsequent generations. The mother's mental illness is genetically (?) passed down to her granddaughter. Not very captivating. However, one thing I absolutely loved about Fools of Fortune was how Trevor unveils the plot. While the plot itself wasn't stellar, Trevor drops little pieces of the puzzle at various points in the story, leaving them for the reader to assemble. The introduction of the Penguin Classics edition even points this out: "when something escalates or deteriorates, we discover it much as we imagine the characters do, just as we might if we were confronted with a similar situation...we are trusted to draw our own parallels and make our own connections." This Faulknerian style of plot development was quite well done and somewhat redeemed an otherwise uninteresting novel.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Claire Fuller

    Another enjoyable Trevor set in Ireland, with the big house, and his wonderful melancholic tone. Towards the end it felt as though he didn't know how to conclude it and things got a bit crazy and unbelievable, so not my favourite novel of his, but still a good one. Another enjoyable Trevor set in Ireland, with the big house, and his wonderful melancholic tone. Towards the end it felt as though he didn't know how to conclude it and things got a bit crazy and unbelievable, so not my favourite novel of his, but still a good one.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    The brutal tragedy of the English domination of Ireland is played out in this complex and fabulous novel, about a child ensnared by the violence of the rebellion. Trevor is a beautiful writer, each incident is deftly sketched and feels original, structurally it’s consistently surprising, and there is that indescribable but undeniable quality of moral insight which elevates it into the highest ranks of novels. Marvelous, really sublime.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Carla

    I was truly enjoying this book until I realised Willie could enjoy a plate of pasta in Italy and admire the charms of his garden, travelling the world like a hipster Lawrence of Arabia, whilst completely forgetting about the woman he loved and the child he had. I understand “there is not much life left after murder” but I would think his love and daughter would come first instead of the joys of Italy. He prepares you for a destroyed character, I imagine and understand he cannot come back because I was truly enjoying this book until I realised Willie could enjoy a plate of pasta in Italy and admire the charms of his garden, travelling the world like a hipster Lawrence of Arabia, whilst completely forgetting about the woman he loved and the child he had. I understand “there is not much life left after murder” but I would think his love and daughter would come first instead of the joys of Italy. He prepares you for a destroyed character, I imagine and understand he cannot come back because he is unable to be a human, to forgive himself, he lives in misery, instead he lives like a national geographic photographer overseas and thinks, oh I cant be bothered to go to the child I never met because apparently she is crazy now. About the love of his life, he goes to her at end because her company is better than a care home, oh how much he loved her! The three stars are for all that comes before all this nonsense.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Far

    beautiully the narrative switches to mariannes perspective in the second half - i liked that. disapointed that willie returned after too long and didnt even see her at the cemetary.It was out of character for him not to return.confused to read that imelda goes insane waiting for her father. My favourite part of the book is trevors beautiful description of the saturday evening when it was too hot to sleep and the quinton children unexpectedley enter the kitchen where o neill is playing the accord beautiully the narrative switches to mariannes perspective in the second half - i liked that. disapointed that willie returned after too long and didnt even see her at the cemetary.It was out of character for him not to return.confused to read that imelda goes insane waiting for her father. My favourite part of the book is trevors beautiful description of the saturday evening when it was too hot to sleep and the quinton children unexpectedley enter the kitchen where o neill is playing the accordion and staff are having a dance.. Its tenderly written from a childs eye view perspective. Look up: daniel o connell, michael collins earls of tyrone and tyrconnell, finn mac cool, cuchulainn, the battle of the yellow ford

  24. 4 out of 5

    freckledbibliophile

    -I finished reading Fools Of Fortune and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book gives you a glimpse into Irish history. Trevor's writing was so vivid that I found myself living inside the book. Sometimes, we have no control over our past, or do we? Can we truly escape our past? Do we have any control over how it or our destiny is sculpted? This is a story about vengeance and how it can ultimately affect certain aspects of our lives. - -After reading the book, I wonder if any of the characters had any re -I finished reading Fools Of Fortune and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book gives you a glimpse into Irish history. Trevor's writing was so vivid that I found myself living inside the book. Sometimes, we have no control over our past, or do we? Can we truly escape our past? Do we have any control over how it or our destiny is sculpted? This is a story about vengeance and how it can ultimately affect certain aspects of our lives. - -After reading the book, I wonder if any of the characters had any remorse for any of their actions. At any rate, the ending is phenomenal. I definitely look forward to reading more of Trevor's work. The book made me laugh and cry, and I would highly recommend it. 4/5

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    A problematic first half gives way to a gorgeous second half, seeing it all come together as a whole as well as its misjudged set-up permits.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mike Radford

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Fools of Fortune "Tell me tales of thy first love-- April hopes, the fools of chance; Till the graves begin to move, And the dead begin to dance. "Fill the can, and fill the cup: All the windy ways of men Are but dust that rises up, And is lightly laid again. Alfred, Lord Tennyson: The Vision of Sin BENVOLIO Romeo, away, be gone! The citizens are up, and Tybalt slain. Stand not amazed. The Prince will doom thee death If thou art taken. Hence, be gone, away! ROMEO Oh, I am fortune’s fool! Stephen Dedalus; i Fools of Fortune "Tell me tales of thy first love-- April hopes, the fools of chance; Till the graves begin to move, And the dead begin to dance. "Fill the can, and fill the cup: All the windy ways of men Are but dust that rises up, And is lightly laid again. Alfred, Lord Tennyson: The Vision of Sin BENVOLIO Romeo, away, be gone! The citizens are up, and Tybalt slain. Stand not amazed. The Prince will doom thee death If thou art taken. Hence, be gone, away! ROMEO Oh, I am fortune’s fool! Stephen Dedalus; in Ulysses Ch 2, in Conversation with Mr Deasy “History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,” The story begins sometime around the period of the Second World War when Ireland is in a continuing ferment over independence from the UK. This is period of particular difficulty for the British Government given the demands of the European War and the Royal Irish Constabulary was strengthen by the recruitment of British soldiers, the ‘Black and Tans’, in order to combat the Nationalist militants. The conflict is violent and bloody and informers are treated with savage punishments. The central character and narrator for the first part of the novel is William (Willie) Quinton. He is of a Protestant land owning family near Cork and of a father who is highly sympathetic to the Nationalist cause. He entertains the Nationalist leader Michael Collins (later executed by the British) in his home. One of his father’s workers is identified as an informer and is hanged and has his tongue cut out as punishment by the Nationalists. The local ‘Black and tan’ sergeant is Rudkin who is generally personable but staunch to his duties as an agent of the British Crown. Towards the climax of the fight for independence, Rudkin leads his forces in a clandestine revenge attack on William’s home. The family home on the estate, Kilneagh, is set on fire with most of its inhabitants burned to death except William and his mother. Both carry deep mental scars from which William’s mother is never to recover. They move to Cork where William begins his schooling (previously he had been tutored by an ex priest Father Kilgarriff). The story details William’s experiences first at a public day school in Cork and then at a boarding school in the Dublin mountains. Towards the end of his schooling during one of the holidays, Willie’s English cousin, Marianne visits and Willie falls in love with her. He is too shy to confess his feelings, At the end of the first part of the novel, Willie’s mother who has never come to terms with the killing of her husband and who has become an alcoholic, commits suicide by cutting her wrists. The second part of the novel is told by Marianne who has come to Ireland with her mother for her aunt’s funeral. Marianne finds Willie withdrawn and unable to articulate his feelings though she senses the reciprocal nature of their love for each other. On the final evening of their visit she goes to William and they make love. Marianne then spends some weeks at a school in Montreux where she is subject to the unwanted attentions of the head of the school who is in his 60s. While she is there she becomes aware that she is pregnant with Willie’s child and resolves to return to Ireland to seek his support. She finds that Willie is no longer at his home in Kilneagh nor in Cork. She receives a mixed welcome in the area and there is a studied silence as to Willie’s whereabouts. It is not stated specifically but we are likely to suspect that Willie has gone to Liverpool to find out Sergeant Rudkin in his greengrocery store and take revenge on him for the destruction that he has wrought on Willie’s family. This section of the novel is told by the author. Marianne’s child, Imelda is born and they live with Willie’s Aunts Fitzeustace and Pansy waiting for Willie to come home. Imelda learns of the brutal killing of Sargeant Rudkin (p.193) and she becomes preoccupied with the sufferings and violence that has affected the family of her father. Perhaps as a result of this she has a mental breakdown and becomes mute. We now return to Willie who after 40 years returns from Italy where he is living, to Ireland to attend the dying Josephine, a loved family servant. Josephine talks in her final moments of the blessed Imelda but Willie only recognises much later that she is talking about his daughter. In Catholic Ireland the insane are regarded as blessed. He returns to Italy. There follows a brief section of Marianne’s thoughts in her diary and she records that on August 6th 1982 Willie returns. For the closing pages of the novel we return to the author’s voice and he tells us of the aged Willie and Marianne living out there lives with their middle aged and silent daughter Imelda. A central character of the novel is one of a joyless fatalism. Its characters are locked into the scars that are carried following the civil war. There is little sense of development or fulfilment for its characters and one reviewer describes it as Chekovian in quality. The compulsive nature of the novel lies in the brilliance of its descriptions of events, in particular Mariannes arrival in Ireland in search of Willie. This is a nightmare section brilliant described in terms of an overriding hopelessness and secrecy . The murder of Rudkin deprives Willie of the joy of love with Marianne and their daughter and we are not told whether he finds any peace in that act. Father Kilgaraff comments ‘There is not much left in anyones life after murder has been committed. God insists upon that do you know’ (p.186) Marianne comments ‘ Destruction casts shadows which are always there …. We will never escape the shadows of destruction that pervade Kineagh’. One is left at the end asking if there is any hope at all in this novel. It seems to be a novel about carrying on, stoically accepting the hand one is dealt. There is little sense, despite the first person narratives that we are really getting to know the characters. The change of personal narration from Willie to Marianne and then to the author is not marked by any change of a style which is sparse and often disconnected. Is there any wisdom to be derived from the suffering or is the book simply an indulgence – what is colloquial terms in called ‘misery lit’?

  27. 5 out of 5

    Diane James

    Told by each character in turn this is their story set in Ireland during the Troubles in 1918. The Quintons are an Anglo-Irish family of property whose lives are devastated by violence and hatred and it is those who survive who are left to pick up the pieces and somehow make something of their lives. At the centre is a poignant story of young love with its own repercussions and damage. The major characters; Willie, Marianne and Imelda are vividly described, but a host of minor characters leave l Told by each character in turn this is their story set in Ireland during the Troubles in 1918. The Quintons are an Anglo-Irish family of property whose lives are devastated by violence and hatred and it is those who survive who are left to pick up the pieces and somehow make something of their lives. At the centre is a poignant story of young love with its own repercussions and damage. The major characters; Willie, Marianne and Imelda are vividly described, but a host of minor characters leave lasting impressions as well. The plot line is compulsive and yet subtile in innuendo and has left me wanting to turn to William Trevor again.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Theresa

    Trevor always writes such lovely prose, but this is a tragic story of people caught up in circumstances beyond their control. I did feel rather let-down by the ending’s abruptness.

  29. 4 out of 5

    My Little Forest

    Impossible not to fall in love with the characters in this heartfelt story. Trevor's subtle political touches make the novel create a big ideological impact on the reader. Very recommended if you are interested in understanding the implications The Great Famine had for both Catholic Irish and the Anglo-Irish Ascendants. Trevor studied History, and it shows in the novel. Impossible not to fall in love with the characters in this heartfelt story. Trevor's subtle political touches make the novel create a big ideological impact on the reader. Very recommended if you are interested in understanding the implications The Great Famine had for both Catholic Irish and the Anglo-Irish Ascendants. Trevor studied History, and it shows in the novel.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    Generally, genre thrillers are books without thrills. Someone gets killed. Tturn the page and it happens again to someone else. There’s a chase, a near miss; da capo al fine; repeat. There are never consequences. Characters seem to exist – they never come to life – in an eternal present devoid of either thought or reflection. Plot is a series of events, while characters are mere fashionably dressed acts. William Trevor’s beautiful novel, Fools Of Fortune is, in many ways, a whodunit – or better Generally, genre thrillers are books without thrills. Someone gets killed. Tturn the page and it happens again to someone else. There’s a chase, a near miss; da capo al fine; repeat. There are never consequences. Characters seem to exist – they never come to life – in an eternal present devoid of either thought or reflection. Plot is a series of events, while characters are mere fashionably dressed acts. William Trevor’s beautiful novel, Fools Of Fortune is, in many ways, a whodunit – or better who done what – thriller. But it transcends genre because it is the consequences of the actions and their motives that feature large, that provide plot and ultimately a credible, if tragic humanity. Fools Of Fortune is a novel that presents tragedy not merely as a vehicle for portraying raw emotion, but rather as a means of illustrating the depth of ensuing consequence, both historical and personal. In conflict it is easy to list events, quote numbers, suggest outcome, but it is rare to have a feel of how momentous events can have life-long consequences for those involved, consequences that even protagonists cannot envisage, consequences that can affect the lives of those not even involved. William Trevor’s book is set in Ireland. Its story spans decades, but the crucial elements of the plot are placed inn the second decade of the twentieth century. They do involve the First World War, but really as a sideshow to the issue of Home Rule for Ireland. The Quinton family are Protestants living in an old house called Kinleagh in County Cork. Willie Quinton is a child, initially home schooled by a priest called Kilgarriff, who has a highly personal view of the world. We see many of the events through Willie’s child eyes, including a surreptitious meeting between Willie’s father and a famous man who visits on a motorbike. The family owns a flour mill. They are quite well off, a fact that is clearly appreciated by some and resented by others. Crucially, it is this availability of finance that leads to a downfall, events that lead to deaths, destruction and calls for revenge. Willie’s life is transformed for ever. Over the water, the Woodcombes of Woodcombe Park, Dorset, have a daughter called Marianne. The Woodcombes and the Quintons are related. Marianne is Willie’s cousin. On a visit to Kinleagh she falls in love with Willie. She is a small, delicate girl. She has experience of a Swiss finishing school, a stay that brings exposure to practices that are not wholly educational. Marianne returns to Kinleagh to find Willie. She has important news, but finds that devastation has hit the Quinton household, a culmination of events beyond the control of any individual. No-one wants to talk about what might have happened, and no-one admits to the whereabouts of Willie. Marianne stays to wait for his return. It proves to be a long wait. There is vengeance in the air, and unforeseen consequences for a child who apparently played no part in any of the events. She was blameless, a mere recipient of the consequences of others’ actions, of others’ grief. William Trevor tells the tale of Fools Of Fortune as serial memoirs of those involved, primarily Willie and Marianne. Some of the school experiences that form a significant part of the story are comic, and offer some relief to the pressure of unfolding tragedy. But central to the book’s non-linear discovery of motive and consequence is the fact that events can dictate the content of lives, and sometimes individuals appear as no more than powerless pawns in games dictated by others. We are all participants, but not always on our own terms.

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