Monday, September 20, 2010

Felicia's Journey

I've recently read William Trevor's Felicia's Journey, a short novel about a pregnant, young Irish woman who crosses over to England in search of her child's father, a man who has been working in England. The story struck me as something strangely familiar, in how Trevor grapples with the realities of economic hardships and the closed-mindedness of small communities.

The novel seemed like a snapshot of small-town culture that's equally relevant in Pennsylvania or in Ireland; Felicia has to consider the perspectives of community members, of her father and brothers, and the legacy that she has inherited simply by being Irish in the twentieth century.

What follows is a narrative that, in its depths of psychological realism and straight matter-of-fact tone, that possesses the qualities of Joyce in Dubliners: We're united with Felicia as she undergoes a needle-in-a-haystack search for her child's father and encounters sensations of paralysis in Ireland and in England.

But the novel probes depths aside from Felicia's own personal psychology; she encounters and befriends a few homeless folk and a few religious zealots throughout the course of the novel, and Trevor displays through these characters the hopelessness of lost causes.

Yet--and here, I won't spoil an ending--Trevor manages to argue that we can lose and surrender, or we can lose and continue surviving, regardless of the costs.

Felicia's Journey is far from an emotionally uplifting read, but William Trevor executes an otherwise dreary narrative with a touch of grace, wit, and sensitivity. Trevor's delicate consideration of those frequently overlooked is well worth a notice.


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