‘The Woman Of The House’ by William Trevor

The Woman Of The House by William Trevor, 2008

The magic trick:

Putting the reader in the position of the not entirely informed visitor

We started the week with a William Trevor story about a saint of a woman. We close the week with the same.

I really like these stories. They unfold gradually. Not slow but never rushed.

This one is about a crippled man and the woman – his distant cousin – who lives with him. But the majority of the third-person narration limits us to the view of two painters on assignment. They are visitors – like the reader – to this strange situation. And as such, they become our surrogates. It’s hard to know exactly what is motivating the man and woman in this house. Why are things in the state they are in? Why does she put up with all she has put up with? Is she a hero? A villain? We can’t say for sure – our information limited, with a few exceptional point-of-view glimpses, by what the painters see.

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

The selection:

In the dark of the evening they talked about the crippled man, concerned—and worried as their conversation advanced—since the understanding about payment for the painting had been made with him and it could easily be that when the work was finished the woman would say she knew nothing about what had been agreed, that the sum they claimed as due to them was excessive. They wondered if the crippled man had been taken from the house, if he was in a home. They wondered why the woman still wasn’t as she’d been at first.


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