This story, set in contemporary Dublin, is told by an omniscient narrator who eventually settles into the voice of Aisling, a young convent school girl who is attracted to Martin, a rough boy—he smokes and drinks and Aisling’s father doesn’t approve—who, in order to impress her, beats another boy whom he doesn’t like. Aisling believes there is a good reason for the beating, but when the boy dies, and the justification is not raised, she realizes that this was a lie she wanted to believe. (“In a bleak cemetery Aisling begged forgiveness of the dead for the falsity she had embraced when what there was had been too ugly to accept. . . She might go away herself and often thought she would: in the calm of another time and place to flee the shadows of bravado.”) Trevor is a master story teller and while this one begins slowly—I can’t help wondering if someone in a workshop would tell him to begin at the point where the beating occurs!—the tone he wants for the story is present from the beginning.
January 15, 2007: “Bravado” by William Trevor