Hailed as “probably the greatest living writer of short stories in the English language” by The New Yorker and “an extraordinarily mellifluous writer, seemingly incapable of composing an ungraceful sentence” by The New York Times Book Review, William Trevor is one of our most elegaic chroniclers of loss.
Set in a provincial Irish town against the backdrop of the Second World War, Nights at the Alexandra is a masterpiece of short fiction. Tracing the reminiscences of a fifty-eight-year-old Irish cinema owner named Harry, the story recounts the years during Harry’s adolescence when he forges an unlikely friendship with an ?migr? couple recently arrived in his small town. Gently imperious yet strikingly beautiful, Frau Messinger, a young British woman married to a much older German, introduces a measure of color into Harry’s otherwise black-and-white existence.
Disappointed by his dull family and his stifling boarding school, Harry soaks up Frau Messinger’s stories of her youth and indulges her numerous flights of fancy. When Mr. Messinger announces his plans to build the town’s first cinema and asks Harry to work its ticket window, Harry for the first time begins to imagine a life of possibility rather than privation. But the young man’s newfound sense of himself comes not without its price, as William Trevor masterfully limns the border between innocence and experience, creating a subtle portrait of an adolescent moment that has the power to shape an entire lifetime.