William Trevor was born in 1928 at Mitchelstown, County Cork, and he spent his childhood in provincial Ireland. He attended a number of Irish schools and later Trinity College, Dublin. He is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters. He has written many novels, including The Old Boys (1964), winner of the Hawthornden Prize; The Children of Dynmouth (1976) and Fools of Fortune (1983), both winners of the Whitbread Fiction Award; The Silence in the Garden (1988), winner of the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Award; Two Lives (1991), which was shortlisted for the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award and includes the Booker shortlisted novella Reading Turgenev; and Felicia's Journey (1994), which won both the Whitbread Book of the Year and the Sunday Express Book of the Year awards. A celebrated short-story writer, William Trevor's latest collection, After Rain, is forthcoming in Penguin. He is also the editor of The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories (1989). He has written plays for the stage and for radio and television; several of his television plays have been based on his short stories. Most of his books are published by Penguin.
In 1976 William Trevor received the Allied Irish Banks' Prize, and in 1977 was awarded an honorary CBE in recognition of his valuable services to literature. In 1992 he received the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence. Many critics and writers have praised his work: to Hilary Mantel he 'is one of the contemporary writers I most admire' and to Carol Shields 'a worthy chronicler of our times'. In the Spectator Anita Brookner wrote 'These novels will endure. And in every beautiful sentence there is not a word out of place,' and John Banville believes William Trevor's to be 'among the most subtle and sophisticated fiction being written today'.
A note from William Trevor's editor, Tony Lacey:
"William Trevor is an Irishman who has lived most of his life in England, and an acclaimed short-story writer (the most accomplished currently writing in the world according to John Banville) who has also written some of the finest English-language novels of the last few
decades. His continuing creativity bears comparison with the achievements of Philip Roth in old age: Trevor was 66 when Felicia's Journey won the the Whitbread Book of the Year Prize in 1994, and he has since written two indisputable prose masterpieces - The Story of Lucy Gault (2002) and Love and Summer (2009) - while continuing to publish a stream of fine collections of stories. Novelists, like goalkeepers but unlike poets and mathematicians, tend to get even better as they get older.
Trevor comes from an Irish Protestant background (his father was a bank manager in the Republic), and though he writes with notable sympathy about Catholics, the tension between Protestant landowners and Catholic tenants is a recurring theme in his books. There is often menace and suspicion in the air, in an apparently idyllic rural landscape. In The Story of Lucy Gault (2002) the Protestant family decides it has to leave Ireland for good - they are simply not safe where they are. Even when the religious element is absent, the idea of abandoning an inheritance is often present in the books - in Love and Summer Florian is making plans to leave the country, unable to maintain the big country house he inherited from his Bohemian parents. A sense of loss, of displacement, hangs over the book.
These novels involving gentry and tenants have been called 'big house' novels. But it would be wrong to think of Trevor as simply a novelist of big themes. In fact, it's the way he writes about the marginalized, the lonely or just the ordinary (if such a word means anything) which is so striking. These qualities are most evident in the short stories, which have often been compared to Chekhov's. He writes about an old Catholic priest in his garden who is falsely accused of having been an abuser by a blackmailing chancer just returned from England; or the husband of a woman suffering from Alzeimers, who sits alone in a Venice restaurant wondering why the young married couple are wasting precious time having a quarrel. His sympathies are deep, various and sometimes surprising, and they also give his novels their particular quality.Love and Summer is a heartbreaking novel not just because it's about a fleeting and doomed summer romance, but because everybody is viewed sympathetically, nobody is to blame for what happens. It's a very good place to start if you don't know Trevor's work - a master novelist writing at the height of his powers."
Lannan Literary Award for Poetry