Book Review: My House in Umbria by William Trevor

William Trevor.  He is such a strong writer.  John Banville in
The New York Review of Books says, “Trevor’s is among the
most subtle and sophisticated fiction being written today.”

The New Yorker writes: “greatest writer of short stories in the
English language . . .”

But don’t take their word for it–read mine . . . !

This short fiction is part of a book titled Two Lives.  There are
two novellas.  I read My House in Umbria.

First things first—where exactly is Umbria?  Oh, you know,
smack in the middle of Italy.  Amidst the Apennines.  The cover
picture  shows the Umbria scene I think (bottom half.)  But I also
like to look at a painting O’Half bought recently which I pretend
is at Umbria . . .

oil painting by Pablo Espana

oil painting by Pablo Espana







The characters in this novel have been brought together because
of a terrible accident—an explosion on a train from Rome.  Several
people are killed, and remaining behind, alive,  are a young man who has
lost his fiancèe; an elderly general who has lost his wife, his daughter,
and son-in-law; a young girl who has lost her brother and her
parents; and the narrator–fifty-six year old Mrs. Delahunty.

It’s not her name, but will do as well as any other.  Her past is
checkered, and she admits that she has become a little plump.  But
through hard work, she has managed to save up enough money to
buy her small house in Umbria.  A companion named Quinty,
slightly unsavory,  manages the small business of renting rooms to
tourists who have overflowed the hotels of Florence and nearby

Mrs. Delahunty offers the little group the use of her house while
they recuperate and ease the trauma of the accident.

The child, Aimée, has suffered the worst maybe, and she has
lost all sense of reality.  The authorities are attempting to find
relatives in America so that she can return there.  Eventually,
an uncle is located.  He will come to pick her up.

In the meantime, the young man, Otmar, befriends the little girl
and he seems to be the only person Aimée can relate to at all.

The General feels a lot of guilt.  He has lost his beloved daughter
but he never did like the son-in-law, and blames himself for
perhaps jinxing the outcome of the accident on the train.

Mrs. Delahunty tells us, “I was the only one who had not lost a
loved one, having none to lose.”

I can’t copy all the great lines!  But I will share a lovely dinner
they have one evening—when they are all together on the first night:
Rosa Crevelli brought us lasagne, and lamb with rosemary,
and the Vino Nobile of Montepulciano, and peaches.  A stranger
would have been surprised to see us, with our bandages and
plaster, the walking wounded at table . . .”

The book moves quietly through the days as they slowly recover
and question what their lives will be like from this point onward.
And the pages turn effortlessly.  Give this book a try.  I loved it
and gave it a * in my book record.

William Trevor Two Lives 002




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2 Responses to Book Review: My House in Umbria by William Trevor

  1. Stefanie says:

    Sounds like a lovely book and you can’t quibble about the setting. I’d love to be in Umbria right now instead of watching snow falling outside my window!

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