cover image The Silence in the Garden

The Silence in the Garden

William Trevor. Viking Books, $17.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-670-82404-5

Carriglas, the island estate of the aristocratic Anglo-Irish Rollestons stands for many things in this quietly evolved and gently nuanced novel by Trevor ( Fools of Fortune, The News from Ireland ). It is the remote homestead to which Sarah Pollexfen, a poor relative, returns as a kind of undeclared housekeeper. Her childhood memories are of Carriglas as a magical, mysterious place where she and her brother Hugh summered with the Rolleston grandchildrenfey Villana and her two older brothers, John James and Lionel. But their lives are changed by World War I and by the Irish ``troubles'' that provoke the wanton murder of the Rolleston's butler, Linchy. Through Sarah's meticulously kept diary entries (``I feel more than ever I live in a cobweb of other people's lives and do not understand the cobweb's nature'') some of the mysteries unfold for her. We know of Sarah's unspoken love for Lionel, who has become a reclusive farmer; we hear of Villana's broken engagement and her strange marriage precipitated by a dreadful event on the island; we observe John James's amusing whoring in Cork. But it is Tom, the child begot by Linchy before he could marry Brigid, a maid in the great house, who captures the heart. Tom's illegitimacy makes him a pariah, subject to the hypocrisies and superstitions of the rural Irish, qualities that Trevor conveys very well. There is an unspoken undercurrent in the narrative of these quietly desperate lives that will enthrall the reader. (September)