cover image The Hill Bachelors

The Hill Bachelors

William Trevor. Viking Books, $22.95 (245pp) ISBN 978-0-670-89373-7

With the recent death of V.S. Pritchett, Trevor is arguably the best short story writer working in the English language, and these stories are up to his own highest standards. Trevor simply knows so much, moving effortlessly between Irish rural settings, like that of the title story, and the world of the sophisticated English art historians at the heart of "" A Friend in the Trade."" He is equally able to inhabit the worlds of priests, restless American expatriates and quarrelsome academics, always with an acute sense of their wide range of voices and habits of mind. His effects are quiet but no less telling for that, and his understated endings are achieved with mastery. One of the best of an outstanding bunch is ""The Mourning,"" the story of a simple Irish laborer who nearly gets to plant a bomb in London for the IRA, until he thinks better of it; the subtle way he is drawn into thinking he can perform such a desperate act says more about the Troubles than many a full-length novel. ""Good News"" is a heartrending account of a young girl hoping a minor film role will help bring her family together. ""The Telephone Game"" is a psychologically astute study of an about-to-be-married young couple who come perilously close to finding out too much about each other at the last moment. ""The Virgin's Gift"" is an utter change of pace, an intensely poetic story of faith and redemption that reads like a myth. ""Against the Odds"" is a delicious study of a woman who is a confidence trickster against her own better instincts. ""Of the Cloth"" is a penetrating tale of the impact a small act of kindness has over the years. Work like this reveals a perfectly crafted story as one of the true gems of literature. (Oct.)