Friday, June 20, 2014

Trevor's Dual Narratives and Felicia's ever-Darker Journey

Trevor, William. Felicia's Journey. New York: Penguin, 1996 (1994).

William Trevor's novel Felicia's Journey describes the physical journey of a young woman named Felicia (of course!) who sneaks out of her family's home in Ireland in hopes of finding the young Irish boy who is the father of her unborn baby. When she sets out, she has not found his address and knows only that he is working at a lawn-mower factory, but this factory proved difficult to find.

As Felicia makes her way into a strange English town--in which her young man proves singularly difficult to find, she crosses paths with the older Mr. Hilditch, a lonely middle-aged man who painstakingly weaves a web of lies in which Felicia becomes ensnared. Under the pretenses of caring for his wife "Ada," he drives Felicia to distant towns (far enough away that his attentions to a young woman will not be observed by any of his employees) and arranges to help her on her journey. Felicia comes across as naive and conscientious--she is troubled by Mr. Hilditch's suggestion that she abort the baby, because it "wasn't right to think about it without Johnny knew" (131) and "There's people who would call it murder."--but she is also heedless, allowing Mr. Hilditch some intimacies and casual glimpses of her nubile form.

Trevor alternates a narrative inside Felicia's head with one told by Mr. Hilditch, leaving out just enough to leave Mr. Hilditch's intentions in question. The end of the book is filled with panic, despair, and the most severe of consequences. In retrospect, it's also possible to read Felicia herself as more cunning than her glib intentions of finding a friend in a large city might suggest, but both heedlessness and manipulation are shown as unfruitful.

While Felicia's Journey deals with a number of mature themes, its limited perspectives also enable it to gloss over most of the details. It is a short and engaging read, and the kind of book that lends itself to reading closely and attentively. All in all, it was time well spent.

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