When you reach the end of a collection of short stories, you expect to remember maybe one or two, the more outstanding ones. You don’t expect them all to be outstanding, you don’t expect each and every one to remain perfectly vivid in your memory. So, it is with some surprise that I realise that weeks after finishing this book, I can remember details from each of the twelve stories that make up After Rain and I suspect that this collection will haunt my memory for a very long time to come.
It is worth while looking at how Trevor manages this feat. The first thing that strikes me is that he always writes about what he knows; the world of his stories, with one or two exceptions, revolves around a homogenous group of people: Irish Protestants living in rural settings. A few stories are set in or around London and one in Italy, and we suspect that Trevor has also lived in such places for lengthy periods. The second thing I noticed about his story telling strategy is that he selects very carefully the details that he chooses to reveal. I imagine him writing a much broader scenario for each tale and then, like a skilled tailor, cutting out the neat shape of the story from the larger cloth, discarding much on the way. In this way, we are beguiled by what he includes but nevertheless reminded of what he has omitted; we feel its absence. Perhaps what I’m trying to explain is summed up best by the following paragraph from the title story: "The Annunciation in the church of Santa Fabiola is by an unknown artist, perhaps of the school of Filippo Lippi, no one is certain. The angel kneels, grey wings protruding, his lily half hidden by the pillar. The floor is marble, white and green and ochre. The virgin looks alarmed, right hand arresting her visitor’s advance. Beyond - background to the encounter - there are gracious arches, a balustrade and then the sky and hills. There is a soundlessness about the picture, the silence of a mystery: no words are spoken in this captured moment, what’s said between the two has been said already."
Yes, he celebrates mystery perfectly, not only in the annunciation scene above but also all the mysteries within the every day relationships of husbands and wives, fathers and sons, mothers and their children, all the unspoken things that can bind people together but may also drive them apart.