“After Rain” by William Trevor

This week I picked another wild card for my Deal Me In Short Story Project – the two of spades.  As I enjoyed William Trevor’s story “Sacred Statues” last week, I thought I would pick another of his stories, “After Rain”.  I’m glad I did.  Last year around this time I read J. D. Salinger’s short story “For Esme -With Love and Squalor” and knew that it was going to be the story to beat for my favorite.  No story last year ever did overtake it, although I read a lot of great “runners up”.  Jay at Bibliophilopolis posted about this William Trevor story in 2011.  “After Rain” is now my 2013 short story to beat.

Harriet is spending a vacation at the Pensione Cesarina in Italy.  Her story is full of vivid descriptions of the dining room, the people dining, and the Italian countryside.  She’s vacationing alone.  Her story is also full of reflections on the recent break-up of a relationship as well as the divorce of her parents twenty years prior.  As a child, her parents brought her to the Pensione Cesarina.

After her dinner one day, she takes a walk to the nearby village and ducks into a church during a rain shower.  Inside the church she views a painting of the Annunciation, where the angel Gabriel tells Mary she will be giving birth to Jesus.  As she leaves the church and sees the countryside after the rain, she seems to have some unspoken revelations about herself, her relationships and her parents.

(This painting of the Annunciation is by Maurice Denis)

The story doesn’t use a concrete plot.  William Trevor tells Harriet’s story with what Jay calls “impressions” – impressions of loneliness, impressions of loss and mourning, impressions of renewal and impressions of hope. While the religious painting and the rain shower act as catalysts to Harriet’s revelation, I find it difficult to describe her experience as “religious”.   These impressions don’t leave the reader with set answers.  Much like the painting and the rain, Trevor’s story lets us simply look and wonder.

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4 responses to ““After Rain” by William Trevor

  1. Hi Dale,

    I’m so glad that you also liked this story. If I had to make a list of the top benefits I’ve gained since I began “book blogging,” the discovery of William Trevor would be right up there. This story was one of my favorites from his collection of the same name. “It was after rain that the angel came: those first cool moments were a chosen time.” That passage will live with me forever (I even got goosebumps just now typing it). Something about it just seems to perfectly capture a moment of epiphany in a way I can’t explain.

    This story also carries a rare cargo of provenance for me. After reading it, I decided to read The Small House at Alington (the book that Harriet is reading in this story), which led me to become interested in Anthony Trollope and to read his autobiography, then later to read his novel, The Warden. That’s a lot of pages I might never have read if it weren’t for this short story by Trevor.

    • It was a great story, Jay! I’m thinking of reading more of his stories “ad hoc”. Have you read any of his novels? I’m currently reading Gone With The Wind. Really liking it, but it’s another long one. Some extra short stories might be a nice break from time to time. Have you decided to read Anna Karenina? If you read it in March, I’ll read it along with you.

      • Hi Dale,
        Haven’t decided yet on Anna Karenina. I’ll let you know soon, though. (I did buy a cheap electronic copy of it already, so that’s a good sign – of course I also bought an ecopy of War and Peace a while back so maybe not).

        I read GWTW almost exactly 3 years ago. It was a great, long book to work my way through on some cold winter mornings as I recall.
        -Jay

  2. Pingback: “Cheating at Canasta” by William Trevor | Mirror w/ Clouds

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