“Child’s Play” by William Trevor – Selection 11 of #DealMeIn2018

The Card: ♥3♥ Three of Hearts

The Suit: For 2018, ♥♥Hearts♥♥ is my Suit for stories by the Irish author William Trevor.

The Author: William Trevor has written several of my all-time favorite stories. He passed away in 2017, so there will be no more new stories from his pen, but he wrote so many that I still have a sizable inventory to explore.

The Selection: Child’s Play, from Selected Stories of William Trevor, of which I own a kindle version.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details may be found here  but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants try to read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for the list of stories I’ll be reading in 2018. Check the sidebar for links to other book bloggers who are participating in this year’s challenge.

Child’s Play

“Gerald wanted to comfort her, as once his father had comforted his mother, saying he forgave her, saying they would try again. But their game wouldn’t stretch that far… Helplessness was their natural state.”

***Spoilers Follow****

Child’s Play is the heartbreaking story of Rebecca and Gerard, each an only child of one of a pair of couples who were neighbors. The neighboring couples’ marriages disintegrate in the wake of infidelities and jealously, to which Rebecca and Gerard are involuntary witnesses.

When the couples break up, the children each remain with the parent who still occupies the neighboring houses. Eventually those two parents marry each other making Gerard and Rebecca “brother and sister” who become as close perhaps as brothers and sisters by blood would be. Of them, Trevor offers that “They missed the past; resentment and deprivation drew them close.”

The children’s coping mechanism is a game they play in the attic – “their game of marriage and divorce,” their understanding of these institutions cobbled together from personal memories (which they often reenact) and “from information supplied by television.” (“…they watched a television serial in which the wronged ones made a kind of fuss that both Gerard and Rebecca had witnessed.”) What chance for happiness do these children have in such circumstances?

Even less than you think, since the story comes to an end as Rebecca’s birth mother decides to regain custody of her “a court of law would put the matter right, no doubt about that: a child goes to the mother if the mother’s fit and well.”

As with a few other sad stories of Trevor’s that I’ve read, I still “liked” it in spite of that, as Trevor’s writing is so nearly perfect.

What about you? Are there some sad stories you’ve read but liked anyway? I’d think, generally speaking, this phenomenon is somewhat rare as it seems such a difficult thing to pull off.



  1. Dale said,

    May 15, 2018 at 3:02 pm

    A sad story that comes to mind is Alice Elliot Dark’s “In the Gloaming”.

    I also can’t wait for a wild card to pop up in my DMI reading so I can read a William Trevor story. I guess, though, I could read one whenever I want. I don’t necessarily have to wait.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jay said,

      May 16, 2018 at 8:47 am

      I remember reading your post about that one. Need to go back and add it to my list.

      Now I can’t wait for a wild card to pop up in your DMI reading either. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. N@ncy said,

    May 16, 2018 at 8:24 am

    This reminds me of Trevor’s story: ‘Access to the Chldren’
    …father regrets throwing away his family life….for a one night stand.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. marianallen said,

    May 16, 2018 at 10:57 am

    That story is in the collection you inspired me to buy. I love it. It’s so achingly sad, so sadly true to life. Trevor is brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. hkatz said,

    June 5, 2018 at 1:45 am

    I only recently discovered William Trevor and read one of his short story collections (The Hill Bachelors). He’s a phenomenal writer. I don’t usually read anthologies of short fiction by one author, but he’s an exception (so is A.S. Byatt). This is a great review of this story, and I agree, he’s so good at writing heartbreak, but not in any melodramatic way. It’s quietly shattering.


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