Beginning during the Irish upheaval of the early twentieth century, William Trevor’s tale of a young girl left behind – The Story of Lucy Gault – has a lilting Irish tone that turns the consequences of political unrest and attitude into a haunting tale. If not for author Heather Barbieri’s list of best books, I would have missed it.
When Captain Gault, a veteran of the British army and landowner in the beautiful area of Lahardane in Ireland, shoots at a group of young men who have poisoned his dogs and are trying to burn down his house, he wounds one and his pastoral life in Ireland ends. Although he is not the criminal, he tries in vain to make restitution to the family of the wounded boy. Realizing the assaults will continue, he decides to leave Ireland and relocate to Britain with his wife and young daughter, Lucy.
Reluctant to leave the only home and friends she has known, Lucy runs away. When her vest and sandal are found near the water, she is presumed dead, and her distraught parents begin an anonymous pilgrimage to lose themselves.
If you like to be surprised, you will want to stop reading here – but do find this book. Trevor is an Irish author, so expect angst and depression along with the tale of loyalty, regret, love and forgiveness – short listed for the Man Booker Award in 2002.
A week later, Lucy, who broke her ankle and has been foraging in the woods, is found, but her parents have traveled on without a trace. Lucy stays on at the house and farm, with the help of the cook and groundskeeper who return to the house to live with her; the family Solicitor finances her simple lifestyle and initiates the futile search for Lucy’s parents. The story continues to follow Lucy’s self-imposed exile – waiting for her parents to return; the parents as they keep moving to forget the daughter they think they have lost; and the tortured life of the boy who was shot. As they meander through their lives, all have been irrevocably changed by the desertion of Lucy, and sadly forfeit opportunities for happiness in their own lives.
Lucy finds her own redemption in a simple life. In a surprising twist at the end, she manages an extraordinary act of forgiveness. With lyrical descriptions of his native Ireland, Trevor creates his own legend in The Story of Lucy Gault.
Have you read the book?