Summary and book reviews of Cheating at Canasta: Stories by William Trevor

Cheating at Canasta: Stories

Stories

by William Trevor

Cheating at Canasta: Stories
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2007, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2008, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva

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Book Summary

From a chance encounter between two childhood friends to the memories of a newly widowed man to a family grappling with the sale of their ancestral land, Trevor examines with grace and skill the tenuous bonds of our relationships, the strengths that hold us together, and the truths that threaten to separate us.

The publication of a new book by William Trevor is a great literary event. Trevor’s last collection, A Bit on the Side, was named a New York Times Notable Book and hailed as one of the Best Books of the Year by papers from coast to coast, including The Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle. And his earlier collection, After Rain, published in 1996, was named one of the eight best books of the year by The New York Times.

Trevor’s precise and unflinching insights into the hearts and lives of ordinary people are evidenced once again in this stunning new collection. From a chance encounter between two childhood friends to the memories of a newly widowed man to a family grappling with the sale of their ancestral land, Trevor examines with grace and skill the tenuous bonds of our relationships, the strengths that hold us together, and the truths that threaten to separate us. Subtle yet powerful, his stories linger with the reader long after the words have been put away.

From Cheating at Canasta: The Dressmaker's Child

Cahal sprayed WD-40 on to the only bolt his spanner wouldn't shift. All the others had come out easily enough but this one was rusted in, the exhaust unit trailing from it. He had tried to hammer it out, he had tried wrenching the exhaust unit this way and that in the hope that something would give way, but nothing had. Half five, he'd told Heslin, and the bloody car wouldn't be ready.

The lights of the garage were always on because shelves had been put up in front of the windows that stretched across the length of the wall at the back. Abandoned cars, kept for their parts, and cars and motorcycles waiting for spares, and jacks that could be wheeled about, took up what space there was on either side of the small wooden office, which was at the back also. There were racks of tools, and workbenches with vices along the back wall, and rows of new and reconditioned tyres, and drums of grease and oil. In the middle of the garage there ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Many book clubs are hesitant to discuss short story collections, and understandably so – it can be difficult to know where to start with so many plotlines, characters and competing ideas; but choosing just two or three stories from a collection to discuss makes for great conversation – and Cheating at Canasta would be a great place to start. The plots and characters raise complex, relevant, and immediately discussable issues, and Trevor's style is wonderfully readable. Short stories are also great for discussing an author's form and style, as their length reduces the scale a little, helps you see the shape and techniques more clearly – and since they're short, you can easily read a story several times to get in even deeper. Try choosing just three stories to discuss from a collection and see what you think!   (Reviewed by Lucia Silva).

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Media Reviews

New York Times - Richard Eder

He is commonly compared to Chekhov. But Mr. Trevor's pistol, introduced early, often as not does not go off. It is unloaded instead in stillness more percussive than a shot.

Los Angeles Times - Susan Salter Reynolds

Trevor, who turns 80 next year, has written 13 novels, two novellas, 12 collections of stories, a play, two works of nonfiction and a children's book. He has dedicated his life to this art form. Perhaps that's why Cheating at Canasta has a backward-looking feel to it, gentle but firm, even in stories like "Bravado" and "The Dressmaker's Child," where the characters are not yet 20 and must learn humility the hard way.

New York Times - William Boyd

Trevor is not the Irish Chekhov. He is, I think, sui generis, and in his 12 collections (and 13 novels, and two novellas: an exhibition of near-Updikean energy), he has created a version of the short story that almost ignores the form's hundred or so years of intricate evolution. These stories stay in the mind long after they’re finished because they’re so solid, so deliberately shaped and directed so surely toward their solemn, harsh conclusions. Perhaps there is an eighth type of short story after all: the Trevorian.

Entertainment Weekly - Jennifer Reese

In a few pages, he evokes a lifetime of hurt, rage, and shame, mingled with unbidden sympathy and understanding, an emotional cocktail so believably complex you'll want to sample it again and again. A.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The book as a whole recalls Joyce's Dubliners in making melancholia a powerful narrative device.

Booklist - Brad Hooper

Starred Review. Trevor offers proof he can't be labeled stale in presentation or old-fashioned in understanding of contemporary life.

Kirkus Reviews

Another stellar collection from Trevor.

The Times - Maggie Gee

The Irish novelist William Trevor’s 12th collection of short stories interweaves love, and the failures of love, with shame.

The Independent - Patricia Craig

Trevor's ability to make compelling connections from an oblique perspective puts him among the most masterly and invigorating storytellers. If the comic element that characterised his earlier work has receded, there are other pleasures in his registering of social change: a resolute clairvoyance, an elegiac gravity.

The Guardian - Hermione Lee

[A] fine collection by the great William Trevor.

Reader Reviews

Beverly

Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor
Trevor's main characters experience profound perceptions of self and situations that bring resolution/acceptance, slowly, ruefully. There is poetry in Trevor's prose -- graceful words and poignant, telling phrases. From "The Children": "Connie ...   Read More

Judy

Trevor--A Master of Engagement
I found Cheating at Canasta to be an intriguing engagement between author and reader. Trevor engages your mind to toss and turn his stories, to re-read passages, to reflect on your own experience, and to entice you to consider the "what would I have...   Read More

Beverly

Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor
Trevor's main characters experience profound perceptions of self and situations that bring resolution/acceptance, slowly, ruefully. There is poetry in Trevor's prose -- graceful words and poignant, telling phrases. From "The Children": "Connie ...   Read More

Susan

Exploring the Human Condition
Here is a collection of well-written stories about human experiences, not the extremes of grand passion or physical violence, but the more subtle but very real feelings of alienation, frustration, grief, guilt, regret, suffering, distrust, and ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

William Trevor was born on May 24, 1928, in Mitchelstown, County Cork, in the Republic of Ireland. He grew up in various provincial towns and attended a number of schools, graduating from Trinity College, in Dublin, with a degree in history. He first exercised his artistry as a sculptor, working as a teacher in Northern Ireland and then emigrated to England in search of work when the school went bankrupt. He could have returned to Ireland once he became a successful writer, he said, "but by then I had become a ...

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