cover image Nights at the Alexandra: William Trevor

Nights at the Alexandra: William Trevor

William Trevor. HarperCollins Publishers, $10.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-06-015848-4

The rather conventional device of a teenage boy whose life is changed and shaped by an encounter with a mysterious older woman is in Trevor's seasoned hands turned into a memorable tale. Calling it a ""short novel'' to qualify for Harper's new series of that name, however, is a bit pretentious; a short story (as it ran in the New Yorker) has been divided into short chapters further fleshed out by Hogarth's illustrations. The narrator is 58-year-old Harry, still living in the provincial Irish town where the seminal event of his life occurred. Seeking refuge from WW II (and, it turns out, from the progress of a fatal illness) Herr and Frau Messengerhe 62, she 27take up residence at the estate called Cloverhill. At 15, already an outsider to his family because of his superior intelligence and sensitivity, Harry is immediately captivated by Frau Messenger. During frequent visits to Cloverhill and through her letters when he is at boarding school he comes further under her spell. The fact that she is dying is conveyed through Herr Messenger's gift and memorialto her and to the town: a cinema called the Alexandra (her name), which will save Harry from working in his father's lumberyard and bring romance and glamor to the drab lives of the townspeople. Trevor's prose bears its customary lucidity and grace, though once in a bit he slips into grandiloquence. (October)