It seems like so long ago that I first read The Old Boys by William Trevor. And, in fact, it IS a long time ago – fifty-seven years, in fact. Where have they gone? I became a lifelong fan of William Trevor; what particularly drew me to his books was his ability to show us a world that looked just like the one we know – and then, with one deft feat of great writing, to remove the ground we think we stand on and show us the abyss below. He revealed that life is not just strange but unknowable. I’ve become a fan of Jan Turk Petrie for many of the same reasons. Her writing reminds me of Trevor’s – cool, distant but at the same time deeply involved with the characters and the reader and committed to writing as an art.
Still Life with a Vengeance is exactly the kind of story William Trevor might have told. It’s like watching interlinking lives play themselves out on stage. Each time we think we understand what’s going on, Petrie makes a slight adjustment to the scenery or the dialogue and a whole different set of questions emerges. The book is also very timely in the way it looks at how rumour can lead to a career and, indeed, a person being cancelled. The thing I had to accept when I read William Trevor was that, like it or not, this world he shows me is my world – the one I live in. In Still Life with a Vengeance, Jan Turk Petrie shows exactly the same skill.
Five stars. Read it. You may not be the same again.