Among the meadows and the crabapple orchards, the drooping fox-gloves that gently sway in the breeze, it's almost the end of summer.
As the dust gathers in in the streets of Rathmoye, author William Trevor lyrically portrays the slow simmer of an unlikely love affair in a haunting rural Irish landscape.
Undoubtedly a stranger in Rathmoye, twenty-something Florian Kilderry arrives in town surreptitiously photographing the funeral
of old Mrs. Connulty. With hints of stylishness in his in a pale tweed suit, Florian is an eccentric artistic drifter who lives alone in a vast ramshackle country house that looks down on its own wide lake.
Orphaned at an early age, Ellie has been sent to housekeep for Dillahan, a kindly redheaded farmer. Bullish, burly, and much older than Ellie, Dillahan is a decent man, respected and sober, who has
offered a measure of security to Ellie through marriage and the routines of farm life.
Dillahan, however, is haunted by the tragedy seven years ago that left him both widowed and childless. Plagued by the memory that he was at fault, Dillahan is insecure about his ability to meets his new wife’s needs.
As it crosses his mind that Ellie is bored, Dillahan’s days pass and not a word is exchanged except for “a husband who couldn’t forgive himself for an error.”
Ellie, “this child of an institution and child of need,” is victim enough without the attentions of the suave photographer. Still, the couple connect; Ellie is beguiled by Florian’s smile when she first glimpses him in the isles of the Cash and Carry, and later when she steals away from the farmhouse to spend romantic summer afternoons with him at his house.
While Florian offers Ellie the possibility of escape from her life of collecting eggs. cleaning the henhouse, and tethering the goat, he sets in motion the sale of his house so that he can go into exile somewhere far away from Ireland.
Poor Ellie, perhaps doomed by Florian’s betrayals, must also reckon with Miss Cummalty, the town gossip determined to sabotage the budding romance, her bristling imagination convincing her that Florian is already a charlatan and a plunderer.
Trevor's part pastoral novel, part discourse on the painful secrets of small-town life beautifully conveys his couple’s melancholy, Ellie’s despair and Florian’s incessant need to escape his life. Governed by misfortune’s contact and perpetually tossed by the hot winds of passion, Ellie and Florian are left to wonder at memory of their fledgling love, and of a summer friendship that they could never have anticipated.