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William Trevor often deals with protagonists that have unfulfilled desires, less than perfect marriages. Trevor often manages to sympathize with these protagonists by keeping some aspect of their character noble.
Graillis takes a letter to an attorney in a town miles away from his home. The letter indicates that a woman has left a substantial amount of money to Graillis in her will. We also know that Graillis is a widower and the woman with the will is not his wife. Graillis does not want the money from the other woman but only requests a small token such as an ashtray or a china plate.
Trevor movingly explains the emotions Graillis feels cutting to the core of his personality but only explaining the relationship between him and the other woman close to the end of the story. Graillis left a potentially lucrative job at the bank to become a librarian much to the dismay of his wife:
His safe employment had been taken for granted; in time promotion would mean occupancy of a squat grey landmark in the town, the house above the bank, with railings and a grained hall door. She had married into that; books had never been an interest they shared, had never been, for her, a need.
The woman for whom they were had often been noticed by Graillis about the town, coming out of a shop, getting into her car, not the kind of woman he would ever have known.
Much treasured conversations about books appear to be the extent of Graillis’s relationship with the other woman – but it was a need not fulfilled by his marriage.
As melancholy as this story is, it’s one for any book lover. As a male book lover, I found something about this story especially touching and sad.
I read this story when I selected the Two of Diamonds for Week 46 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project. It’s the third wild card I’ve chosen which means there is one more to go with not very many weeks left. My Deal Me In 2018 list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.