William Trevor

William Trevor KBE (24 May 1928 – 20 November 2016) was an Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer. One of the elder statesmen of the Irish literary world,[1] he was widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary writers of short stories in the English language.[2]

William Trevor
BornWilliam Trevor Cox
(1928-05-24)24 May 1928
Mitchelstown, County Cork, Ireland
Died20 November 2016(2016-11-20) (aged 88)
Somerset, England
Pen nameWilliam Trevor
OccupationNovelist, short story writer
Citizenship British
Notable worksThe 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 awardsHawthornden 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

He won the Whitbread Prize three times and was nominated five times for the Booker Prize, the last for his novel Love and Summer (2009), which was also shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award in 2011. His name was also mentioned in relation to the Nobel Prize in Literature.[3] In 2014, Trevor was bestowed Saoi by the Aosdána.[4]

Trevor resided in England from 1954 until his death at the age of 88.[5]


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[6] under the name Trevor Cox[7] 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. It was during this time that he and his wife had their first son.[8]

His first novel, A Standard of Behaviour, was published in 1958 (by Hutchinson Of London,) but had little critical success. He later disowned this work and, according to his obituary in the Irish Times, "refused to have it republished."[8] In truth, it was republished in 1982 ISBN 978-0349133898 and in 1989 ISBN 978-0349133898, at the very least.

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 then moved to Devon in South West England, where he resided until his death. In 2002, he made honorary KBE for services to literature. Despite having spent most of his life in England, he considered himself to be "Irish in every vein".[9]

William Trevor died peacefully in his sleep on 20 November 2016. He was 88 years old.[10][11]

Works and themes

He wrote 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 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, 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 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 also explored the decaying institution of the "Big House" in his novels Fools of Fortune and The Story of Lucy Gault.

Awards and honours

Trevor was 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.[12] In 2002 he received an honorary KBE in recognition of his services to literature.[13]

Trevor was nominated for the Booker Prize five times, making the shortlist in 1970, 1976, 1991 and 2002, and the longlist in 2009.[14] He won the Whitbread Prize three times and the Hawthornden Prize for Literature once.[15]

Since 2002, when non-American authors became eligible to compete for the O. Henry Award, Trevor 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 Dublin Literary Award in 2011.[16]



A monument to William Trevor was unveiled in Trevor's native Mitchelstown on 25 August 2004. It is 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.

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.


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)[20]
  • The Hill Bachelors (Viking, 2000) ISBN 978-0141002170
  • A Bit On the Side (Viking, 2004) ISBN 978-0143035916
  • Cheating at Canasta (Viking, 2007) ISBN 978-0670018376
  • Bodily Secrets (Penguin Great Loves, 2007; new selection of stories from earlier collections) ISBN 978-0141033235
  • The Collected Stories (Viking, 2009)," ISBN 978-0140232455.
  • Selected Stories (Viking, 2010), listed as "the second volume of his collected stories" ISBN 978-0-670-02206-9.
  • Last Stories (Viking, 2018)

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,[21] 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)
  • The Ballroom of Romance (Pat O’Connor, 1982)
  • Going Home (Samuel French, 1972)

Children's books

  • Juliet's Story (Bodley Head, 1992)


  • A Writer's Ireland: Landscape in Literature (Thames & Hudson, 1984)
  • Trevor, William (1994). Excursions In The Real World: Memoirs. Knopf.

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.
  2. "It's like gadgets in shops".
  3. "Punters tip Trevor for Nobel honour". Irish Independent. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  4. "William Trevor elected to position of Saoi by Aosdána to honour outstanding achievements". RTÉ News. 29 September 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2016.
  5. The Guardian: William Trevor, watchful master of the short story, dies aged 88
  6. Homan Potterton, 'Suggestions of Concavity: William Trevor as Sculptor', Irish Arts Review, vol 18 (2002), pp.93–103.
  7. Tusa, John (12 June 2005). "BBC Radio 3 - The John Tusa Interviews, William Trevor". The John Tusa Interviews. BBC. Archived from the original on 2 August 2006. Retrieved 20 September 2018.
  8. "William Trevor, award-winning writer, dies at the age of 88".
  9. Adams, Tim (2 August 2009). "William Trevor: the keen-eyed chronicler". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 July 2016.
  10. "William Trevor, novelist and short story writer, dies aged 88". 21 November 2016 via www.bbc.co.uk.
  11. Cain, Sian (21 November 2016). "Irish writer William Trevor dies aged 88" via The Guardian.
  12. "Royal Society of Literature".
  13. Department for Culture, Media and Sport
  14. "William Trevor". Man Booker Prize. Archived from the original on 3 December 2010. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  15. Pepinster, Catherine (29 September 2002). "William Trevor: The quiet chronicler of the lost and the damned". The Independent. Retrieved 4 July 2010.
  16. Battersby, Eileen (12 April 2011). "William Trevor makes an Impac". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  17. Medrano, Juan Díez (24 January 2010). Framing Europe: Attitudes to European Integration in Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Princeton University Press. p. 273. ISBN 9780691146508.
  18. The Man Booker Prize 1970
  19. Trevor, William (1958). A standard of behaviour. London: Hutchinson.
  20. http://www.borders.co.uk/book/cocktails-at-doneys-bloomsbury-classic-s/437707/%5B%5D
  21. 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.
  • Dolores MacKenna (1999). William Trevor: the writer and his work. New Island Books. ISBN 978-1-874597-74-2.
  • 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.
  • Kristin Morrison (1993). William Trevor. Twayne Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8057-7032-2.
  • Hugh Ormsby-Lennon (2005). Fools of fiction: reading William Trevor's stories. Maunsel & Co. ISBN 978-1-930901-21-6.
  • Gregory A. Schirmer (1990). William Trevor: Study of His Fiction. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-04493-6.
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