‘A Bit On the Side’, by William Trevor

It was my mother, who was of Irish extraction, who first introduced me to William Trevor’s writing, and to Trevor himself: they both died at the end of last year.‘A Bit On the Side’ is typical downbeat WT, suffused with unshowy regret  about chances not taken and lives not lived – the whole watched over with his all-seeing, all-compassionate eye. Two unprepossessing lovers in middle age resolve to part, but agonisingly find they cannot; she has recently divorced, he remains married. ‘She had never asked, she did not know, why he would not leave his marriage. His reason, she supposed, were all the reasons there usually were’. Unfailingly polite to and considerate of each other, there are no Grand Guignol turns here: instead, ‘they would grow old together while never being together’.

(From A Bit On the Side and Other Stories. Penguin, 2005)