Unforeseen Consequences of History: William Trevor’s Fortune Fools
Genre thrillers are generally emotionless books. Someone dies. He turns the page and it happens again to someone else. There is a chase, a near fault; da capo al fin; repeat. There are never consequences. The characters seem to exist, never come to life, in an eternal present devoid of thought or reflection. The plot is a series of events, while the characters are mere acts dressed in fashion. William Trevor’s beautiful novel, Fools Of Fortune is, in many ways, a detective novel, or better, who did what, a thriller. But it transcends genre because it is the consequences of actions and their motives that largely stand out, which provide the plot and ultimately a credible, albeit tragic, humanity.
Fools Of Fortune is a novel that presents tragedy not merely as a vehicle to portray raw emotions, but rather as a means to illustrate the depth of the ensuing consequences, both historical and personal. In a conflict, it is easy to list events, cite numbers, suggest outcomes, but it is rare to have an idea of how momentous events can have lifelong consequences for those involved, consequences that not even the protagonists can consider, consequences that can affect the consequences. lives. of those who are not even involved.
William Trevor’s book is set in Ireland. Its history spans decades, but the crucial elements of the plot are located in the second decade of the 20th century. They involve the First World War, but really as a sideshow to the theme of autonomy for Ireland. The Quinton family are Protestants living in an old house called Kinleagh in County Cork. Willie Quinton is a boy, initially homeschooled by a priest named Kilgarriff, who has a very personal view of the world. We see many of the events through the eyes of Willie’s child, including a surreptitious meeting between Willie’s father and a famous man visiting him on a motorcycle.
The family owns a flour mill. They are fairly well off, a fact that some clearly appreciate and others resent. Fundamentally, it is this availability of funding that leads to a crash, events that lead to death, destruction, and calls for revenge. Willie’s life is forever transformed.
On the water, the Woodcombes of Woodcombe Park, Dorset, have a daughter named Marianne. The Woodcombes and the Quintons are related. Marianne is Willie’s cousin.
On a visit to Kinleagh, she falls in love with Willie. She is a small and delicate girl. She has experience in a Swiss completion school, a stay that exposes her to internships that are not entirely educational. Marianne returns to Kinleagh to find Willie. She has important news, but discovers that devastation has hit the Quinton household, a culmination of events beyond the control of any individual. No one wants to talk about what may have happened and no one admits Willie’s whereabouts. Marianne stays to wait for his return. It proves to be a long wait.
There is revenge in the air and unforeseen consequences for a child who apparently did not participate in any of the events. She was innocent, a simple recipient of the consequences of the actions of others, of the pain of others.
William Trevor tells the story of Fools Of Fortune as serial memoirs of those involved, primarily Willie and Marianne. Some of the school experiences that are an important part of the story are comical and offer some relief from the pressure of unfolding tragedy. But central to the book’s nonlinear discovery of motive and consequence is the fact that events can dictate the content of lives, and individuals sometimes appear as powerless pawns in games dictated by others. We are all participants, but not always on our own terms.