Death in Summer
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There were three deaths that summer. The first was Letitia's, sudden and quite unexpected, leaving her husband Thaddeus haunted by the details of her last afternoon, a drizzling Thursday in June. They had spent it arguing in their comfortable house in the country until Thaddeus reluctantly promised to visit a woman from his past - a promise he had no intention of keeping. The next death came some weeks later, after Thaddeus's mother-in-law had helped him to interview the young woman who had answered their advertisement for a nanny to look after Letitia's baby. None was suitable - least of all the last one, with her small, sharp features, her shabby clothes that reeked of cigarettes, her badly typed references - so Letitia's mother moved in herself. But then, just as the household was beginning to settle down, the last of the nannies suprisingly returned, her unwelcome arrival heralding the third of the summer tragedies. William Trevor's new novel is a sypathetic portrait of the sadness and damage that lies at the heart of some lives - both those that are obviously afflicted and those that appear to be blessed.
too: images and moments that join the details of the funeral occasion, the lowered tones of the clergyman, a silence asked for. But most of all- remembered also by the household’s couple - is the last afternoon of Letitia’s life. Because of her disposition and Thaddeus’s practice in his marriage of saying too little rather than too much - her natural inclination to amity, his to mild prevarication - there was not often a disagreement between the two. But a drizzling Thursday in June had been
She can hear a movement in the undergrowth, not far from where she is. In a moment, paws scratch and the dog’s nose is pressed through the crack. She can see its tail wagging and she reaches in and pats its head. It goes away then, as it did the other time. ‘They called it the October house,’ she hears after another long wait, his voice reaching her easily. Sixteen-sided, the summer-house was built to catch the autumn sun, he is telling the old grandmother, who’s dressed all in white. It was
from seven tins of cocoa you sent away the seven pictures they made and received in return a statuette of Snow White. With a crust of bread clamped between her teeth, skinning and chopping two onions, Zenobia remembers that. She washes carrots and parsnips beneath a running tap, then trims the fat from a tenderloin of pork. Duplicates wouldn’t do. She had Sneezy twice and Happy four times and still had to go on collecting. Her father said you’d maybe drink forty gallons of cocoa to get it right.
vNot quite.’ ‘Well, there you go, as they say.’ ‘You rest now, Dot.’ vYour lovely house, your lovely wife. I’m happy for you, Thad.’ Her head drops back, a dribble runs from one corner of her mouth. Alarmed, Thaddeus presses the bell that hangs near the pillow. ‘She’s sleeping now,’ the nurse who comes says. Rosie noses about the hospital car park. Leaning against the side of the car, he lets her for a while. Butter side up, and of course that’s true. Why could he never have been less
journey for nothing,’ he said the second time she came, and she said no, not for nothing. In the nursery, when she stood so close to him, he knew and didn’t want to know, darkening a truth that came from outside his life, hurrying on, away from it. ‘Dead?’ he says, in confusion, unable to suppress the thought that death surely does not beget death, as it seems to have this summer. ‘They bulldozed down the Morning Star, sir. I saw her in the brick and stuff lifted away. I saw Pettie in the sky.’