‘Of The Cloth’ by William Trevor

Of The Cloth by William Trevor, 1998

The magic trick:

Deliberately addressing a specific topic, but never preaching to the reader

This is a story that is very much about something. It’s about religion. It’s about Ireland. It’s about religion in Ireland. That can be a dangerous proposition – art with a distinct message.

But no worries on this. Trevor is never nothing but completely in control of the material, but it never feels contrived or strangled. The story unfolds quietly with grace. The religious men never feel like types or topical stand-ins. They are characters with unique qualities. We get their backstories. Their conversation feels organic and real. It’s emotional and touching. So even as you reflect back on the story and find that it certainly was about something, you don’t feel as though you’ve been preached to.

And that’s quite a trick on Trevor’s part.

The selection:

“It’s a big old house,” Father Leahy said. “It would always have been a rectory, would it?”

“Oh, it was built as a rectory all right – 1791.”

“It’ll see a few years yet.”

“A lot of the clergy would prefer something smaller these days.”

“But not yourself?”

“You’re used to a place.”

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