William Trevor

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William Trevor
Born William Trevor Cox
(1928-05-24) 24 May 1928 (age 90)
Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland
Pen name William Cox
Occupation Novelist, short story writer
Language English
Nationality Irish
Notable works The Old Boys
The Boarding House
Mrs. Eckdorf in O'Neill's Hotel
The Children of Dynmouth
Fools of Fortune
Two Lives
Felicia's Journey
The Story of Lucy Gault
Love and Summer
The Dressmaker's Child
Notable awards Hawthornden Prize for Literature

Whitbread Prize
1976, 1983, 1994
Jacob's Award
Companion of Literature
David Cohen Prize
Irish PEN Award
Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award

Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award in Irish Literature

William Trevor, KBE (born 24 May 1928), is an Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer. One of the elder statesmen of the Irish literary world,[1] he is widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary writers of short stories in the English language.[2]

He has won the Whitbread Prize three times and has been nominated five times for the Booker Prize, most recently for his novel Love and Summer (2009), which was also shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2011. His name has also been mentioned in relation to the Nobel Prize in Literature.[3]

Trevor has resided in Devon, South West England, since the 1950s.


Born as William Trevor Cox in Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland, to a middle-class Protestant family, he moved several times to other provincial towns, including Skibbereen, Tipperary, Youghal and Enniscorthy, as a result of his father's work as a bank official. He was educated at St. Columba's College in Dublin, and at Trinity College, Dublin, from which he received a degree in history. Trevor worked as a sculptor[4] under the name Trevor Cox[5] after his graduation from Trinity College, supplementing his income by teaching. He married Jane Ryan in 1952 and emigrated to Great Britain two years later, working as a copywriter for an advertising agency. His first novel, A Standard of Behaviour, was published in 1958, but had little critical success. In 1964, at the age of 36, Trevor won the Hawthornden Prize for Literature for The Old Boys. The win encouraged Trevor to become a full-time writer. He and his family moved to Devon in South West England, where he has resided ever since. In 2002, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom for services to literature. Despite having spent most of his life in England, he considers himself to be "Irish in every vein".[citation needed]

Works and themes

He has written several collections of short stories that were well received. His short stories often follow a Chekhovian pattern. The characters in Trevor's work are typically marginalised members of society: children, the elderly, single middle-aged men and women, or the unhappily married. Those who cannot accept the reality of their lives create their own alternative worlds into which they retreat. A number of the stories use Gothic elements to explore the nature of evil and its connection to madness. Trevor has acknowledged the influence of James Joyce on his short-story writing, and "the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal" can be detected in his work,[citation needed] but the overall impression is not of gloominess, since, particularly in his early work, the author's wry humour offers the reader a tragicomic version of the world. He has adapted much of his work for stage, television and radio. In 1990, Fools of Fortune was made into a film directed by Pat O'Connor, along with a 1999 film adaptation of Felicia's Journey, which was directed by Atom Egoyan.

Trevor's stories are set in both England and Ireland; they range from black comedies to tales based on Irish history and politics. Common themes in his works are the tensions between Protestant (usually Church of Ireland) landowners and Catholic tenants. His early books are peopled by eccentrics who speak in a pedantically formal manner and engage in hilariously comic activities that are recounted by a detached narrative voice. Instead of one central figure, the novels feature several protagonists of equal importance, drawn together by an institutional setting, which acts as a convergence point for their individual stories. The later novels are thematically and technically more complex. The operation of grace in the world is explored, and several narrative voices are used to view the same events from different angles. Unreliable narrators and different perspectives reflect the fragmentation and uncertainty of modern life. Trevor has also explored the decaying institution of the "Big House" in his novels Fools of Fortune and The Story of Lucy Gault.[citation needed]

Awards and honours

Trevor is a member of the Irish Academy of Letters and Aosdána. He was awarded an honorary CBE in 1977 for "services to literature", and was made a Companion of Literature in 1994.[6] In 2002 he received an honorary knighthood in recognition of his services to literature.[7]

Trevor has been nominated for the Booker Prize five times, making the shortlist in 1970, 1976, 1991 and 2002, and the longlist in 2009.[8] He has won the Whitbread Prize three times and the Hawthornden Prize for Literature once.[9]

Since 2002, when non-American authors became eligible to compete for the O. Henry Award, Trevor has won the award four times, for his stories "Sacred Statues" (2002), "The Dressmaker's Child" (2006), "The Room" (2007), a juror favourite of that year, and "Folie à Deux" (2008).

Trevor was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2011.[10]



A monument to Trevor – a bronze sculpture by Liam Lavery and Eithne Ring in the form of a lectern, with an open book incorporating an image of the writer and a quotation, as well as the titles of his three Whitbread Prize-winning works, and two others of significance – was unveiled in Trevor's native Mitchelstown on 25 August 2004.[citation needed]

On 23 May 2008, the eve of his 80th birthday, a commemorative plaque, indicating the house on Upper Cork Street, Mitchelstown where Trevor was born, was unveiled by Louis McRedmond.[citation needed]


Novels and novellas

Short story collections

  • The Day We Got Drunk on Cake and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1967)
  • The Ballroom of Romance and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1972)
  • The Last Lunch of the Season (Covent Garden Press, 1973)
  • Angels at the Ritz and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1975)
  • Lovers of their Time (Bodley Head, 1978)
  • Beyond the Pale (Bodley Head, 1981)
  • The Stories of William Trevor (Penguin, 1983)
  • The News from Ireland and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1986)
  • Family Sins and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1989)
  • Outside Ireland: Selected Stories (Viking, 1992)
  • The Collected Stories (Viking, 1992; Penguin, 1993, 2003)
  • After Rain (Viking, 1996)
  • Cocktails at Doney's (Bloomsbury Classics, 1996)[11]
  • The Hill Bachelors (Viking, 2000)
  • A Bit On the Side (Viking, 2004)
  • Cheating at Canasta (Viking, 2007)
  • Bodily Secrets (Penguin Great Loves, 2007; new selection of stories from earlier collections)
  • William Trevor (5 November 2009). The Collected Stories. ISBN 978-0-670-91833-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Selected Stories (Viking, 2010), listed as "the second volume of his collected stories" ISBN 978-0-670-02206-9.

Short fiction

Title Year First published in Reprinted/collected in
The women 2013 The New Yorker 88/43 (January 14, 2013)


  • Play for Today: O Fat White Woman (1971,[12] adaptation from short story)
  • The Old Boys (Davis-Poynter, 1971)
  • A Night with Mrs da Tanka (Samuel French, 1972)
  • Going Home (Samuel French, 1972)
  • Marriages (Samuel French, 1973)
  • Scenes from an Album (Co-Op Books (Dublin), 1981)

Children's books

  • Juliet's Story (Bodley Head, 1992)


  • A Writer's Ireland: Landscape in Literature (Thames & Hudson, 1984)
  • Excursions in the Real World: Memoirs (Hutchinson, 1993)

As editor

See also


  1. Flood, Alison (12 April 2011). "Impac prize shortlist dominated by three-strong Irish contingent". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 12 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "It's like gadgets in shops".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Punters tip Trevor for Nobel honour". Irish Independent. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Homan Potterton, 'Suggestions of Concavity: William Trevor as Sculptor', Irish Arts Review, vol 18 (2002), pp.93–103.
  5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/johntusainterview/trevor_transcript.shtml
  6. Royal Society of Literature
  7. Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  8. "William Trevor". Man Booker Prize. Retrieved 4 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Pepinster, Catherine (29 September 2002). "William Trevor: The quiet chronicler of the lost and the damned". The Independent. Retrieved 4 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Battersby, Eileen (12 April 2011). "William Trevor makes an Impac". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 12 April 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. http://www.borders.co.uk/book/cocktails-at-doneys-bloomsbury-classic-s/437707/
  12. Play for Today: O Fat White Woman, BFI Film and TV Database


  • Mary Fitzgerald-Hoyt (2003). William Trevor: re-imagining Ireland. Liffey Press. ISBN 978-1-904148-06-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Dolores MacKenna (1999). William Trevor: the writer and his work. New Island Books. ISBN 978-1-874597-74-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Tom McAlindon: Tragedy, history, and myth: William Trevor's Fools of Fortune. (Critical Essay); in: Irish University Review: a journal of Irish Studies, 2003
  • Stephanie McBride; Irish Film Institute (2006). Felicia's journey. Cork University Press. ISBN 978-1-85918-399-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Kristin Morrison (1993). William Trevor. Twayne Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8057-7032-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hugh Ormsby-Lennon (2005). Fools of fiction: reading William Trevor's stories. Maunsel & Co. ISBN 978-1-930901-21-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Gregory A. Schirmer (1990). William Trevor: Study of His Fiction. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-04493-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links