The Children of Dynmouth by William Trevor

941018  This is my first William Trevor novel and it will not be my last.  Well written, somewhat quirky with odd senses of foreboding and at the same time sympathy, the book engages the reader from beginning to end.

The point to keep in mind with this book is that it was written and set in 70s.  Today’s treatment of Timothy Gedge would be much different.  Today he would see as a character on the autism spectrum perhaps and his behavior explained away as caused by  a lack of appropriate therapies, neglect at home and poor social skills training.  As a teacher, first beginning the book, I had to force myself to not try to look at Timothy Gedge from my current perspective. His character is intended to be a villain, someone manipulative, someone taking prurient interest in other’s dealings, and for the most part creepy.  Prior to thinking about the time it was written, I found myself sympathizing more with Timothy, this outcasted, socially and even familially isolated child, lacking social skills and seeming to try to make connections with others.  Even the description of him wearing yellow head to toe all the time triggers thoughts of obsessive behavior.

Engaging with the book as it was written, Timothy is seen as a catalyst who wanders the town observing others and exposing secrets that the townspeople would rather not see, plausible deniability, as it were.  The other characters view Timothy as a menace, if not physically, then to their peace of mind.  Events come to a head as Timothy decides he wants to perform in a talent show and sets out, in his own way, to make it happen.  This is a book about secrets and exposing them.  It is also about how an outsider can upset the delicate balance of a social group and how people inside the group can often exhibit wilful blindness to activities around them.

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