The Dressmaker’s Child by William Trevor #ReadingIrelandMonth23 #Begorrathon23 #WilliamTrevor2023

The Dressmaker’s Child: Pocket Penguins by William Trevor

In May 2005 Penguin will publish 70 unique titles to celebrate the company’s 70th birthday.

Book Blurb

As this is part of a collection of short stories there is no specific ‘book blurb’ so here is a short description.

Cahal, a mechanic, is driving a couple of tourists from Spain to see a statue called ‘The Weeping Virgin of the Wayside.’ A chap the couple chatted to in Dublin told them they must make a trip out to the countryside to see the weeping virgin as she would bless their union.

On the way back to town a little girl in a white dress dashes out into the road, with no time to swerve, he hits her.

Cahal doesn’t stop.

My thoughts

The story opens with an unknown narrator describing a young Irish man, Cahal, at work as a car mechanic. A young Spanish couple, directed to him by their hotel, come to ask him to take them to see ‘The Weeping Virgin of the Wayside’. They have been told The Virgin will bless them.

Even though Cahal knows the statue has had its status removed by the Church, since it was found that the tears of the virgin are created by the rainwater above the statue, he agrees to take the couple to see it for fifty euros. He is pleased with this, it’s a very good deal for such a short drive.

On the way back Cahal hits a child who has run out in front of him. It’s an accident but Cahal does not stop. He remembers having heard about the dressmaker’s daughter who is known to run into the road and fling herself at passing cars. Strangely she has not been stopped from doing this, nor has she been seriously hurt.

Cahal has no idea as to why she does it and the narrator never tells us. We only know that the girls home life isn’t good and that her mother, the dressmaker, is a drinker often leaving her daughter alone at night to go to the bar.

The girl’s mother, the dressmaker, somehow knows that Cahal, was the one to hit her daughter and keep going. Instead of going to the police, she stalks Cahal.

The guilt, the unsettling atmosphere that descends when Cahal fails to stop and after when he realises that the dressmaker knows it was him. The guilt Cahal feels even though it was an accident, with no intention to hurt, obviously lays heavy and his life which before was full of hope and looking forward to the future is now something else. Cahal may not have had to face any consequence from the police or townsfolk but his own conscious would not leave him alone. If he had simply acted quickly and told the truth, if only. So the consequences he did face were of his own making and, perhaps, the more devastating.

The Dressmaker’s Child is a wonderful short story, the author gets across so much in such a few words. He sets the scene, conveys the story and gives the reader such food for thought. He has taken a slice of time and place and written an undeniably touching story.

Reading Ireland Month ‘23 / The Begorrathon ‘23

Reading Ireland month, or The Begorrathon as it is affectionately known, returns for the seventh year between Wednesday 1 and Friday 31 March 2023. So I am reading a book or two for this challenge. You can find out all about it from the host Cathy on 746books.

This year Cathy is, once again, theming her weeks and wants you to feel free to join in with this, or just read what you want, when you want!

Intro Week:    1 – 5 March 

Irish Classics Week: 6 -12 March

Contemporary Irish Week: 13 – 19 March

Short Story Week: 20 – 26 March

Non- Fiction Week: 27 – 31 March                                         

Grab the new badge for your Ireland themed reading or viewing. Like the Facebook page here and then between 1 and 31 March, post as much as you like about any aspect of Irish literature and culture – anything at all!

If you need some inspiration, check out Cathy’s list of 100 Irish Novels and 100 Novels by Irish Women Writers. Why not join in with A Year with William Trevor and treat yourself to one of his short story collections or novels?

A Year with William Trevor

Cathy at 746books and Kim at Reading Matters are hosting this meme during 2023 to celebrate the work of one of Ireland’s finest writers, William Trevor. This year long read-along of William Trevor’s work to celebrate 95 years since his birth and 65 years since the publication of his first novel.

I do hope you can join us in this year long celebration of one of not only Ireland’s, but the world’s finest writers.

Cathy at 746books

If you do review a William Trevor book this year, then grab Cathy and Kim’s graphic, be sure to tag Cathy and Kim in the post and use the hashtag #williamtrevor2023.


Author: William Trevor was born in 1928 at Mitchelstown, County Cork, spent his childhood in provincial Ireland, and now lives in Devon. A celebrated short-story writer, his last collection A Bit on the Side was published in 2004 to wide acclaim, and his previous collection The Hill Bachelors won the Macmillan Silver Pen Award and the Irish Times Literature Prize. His most recent novel, The Story of Lucy Gault, was shortlisted for both the Man Booker Prize and the Whitbread Fiction Award in 2002. In 1999 William Trevor received the prestigious David Cohen British Literature Prize in recognition of a lifetime’s literary achievement. And in 2002, he was knighted for his services to literature.

All That Remains: The Lasting Images of a William Trevor Story (Ploughshares at Emerson College: Author: Laura Spence-Ash | In Critical Essays – May 15 2018)

Ghosts of Ireland past … and present (Guardian Review: 4, Aug 2007 – William Trevor’s gravity and modesty in Cheating at Canasta make his protagonists matter to us, says Hermione Lee)


Booker Prize Best Novel nominee (1970) : Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neill’s Hotel

Booker Prize Best Novel nominee (1976) : The Children of Dynmouth

Whitbread Prize Best Novel winner (1976) : The Children of Dynmouth

Whitbread Prize Best Novel winner (1983) : Fools of Fortune

Booker Prize Best Novel nominee (1991) : Reading Turgenev

Whitbread Prize Best Novel winner (1994) : Felicia’s Journey

Booker Prize Best Novel nominee (2002) : The Story of Lucy Gault

James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction Best Book nominee (2002) : The Story of Lucy Gault

Whitbread Prize Best Novel nominee (2002) : The Story of Lucy Gault

Booker Prize Best Novel nominee (2009) : Love and Summer

International IMPAC Dublin Literary Awards Best Novel nominee (2011) : Love and Summer

Cheating at Canasta

The first story in this collection is The Dressmaker’s Daughter and you can read it online at the New Yorker (thanks to Kim for putting this in her commentary).

Buy: AmazonSmileUK | Hive books UK | The New Yorker (October 4, 2004 Issue)

Buy: | AmazonSmileUK | The New Yorker (October 4, 2004 Issue)

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Penguin (6 May 2005)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Mass Market Paperback ‏ : ‎ 64 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0141022531
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0141022536

The Dressmaker’s Child: Pocket Penguins by William Trevor: In May 2005 Penguin will publish 70 unique titles to celebrate the company’s 70th birthday. The titles in the Pocket Penguins series are emblematic of the renowned breadth of quality of the Penguin list and will hark back to Penguin founder Allen Lane’s vision of ‘good books for all’. William Trevor’s The Dressmaker’s Child features three stories, specially selected by the author. It includes the title story, never before published in the UK, and two stories from the award-winning collections After Rain and The Hill Bachelors.


Novels and novellas
  • A Standard of Behaviour (Hutchinson, 1958)
  • The Old Boys (Bodley Head, 1964)
  • The Boarding House (Bodley Head, 1965)
  • The Love Department (Bodley Head, 1966)
  • Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neill’s Hotel (Bodley Head, 1969)
  • Miss Gomez and the Brethren (Bodley Head, 1971)
  • Elizabeth Alone (Bodley Head, 1973)
  • The Children of Dynmouth (Bodley Head, 1976)
  • The Distant Past (Poolbeg Press, 1979)
  • Other People’s Worlds (Bodley Head, 1980)
  • Fools of Fortune (Bodley Head, 1983)
  • Nights at the Alexandra (Hutchinson, 1987)
  • The Silence in the Garden (Bodley Head, 1988)
  • Two Lives (the two novellas Reading Turgenev and My House in Umbria) (Viking Press, 1991)
  • Felicia’s Journey (Viking, 1994)
  • Death in Summer (Viking, 1998)
  • The Story of Lucy Gault (Viking, 2002)
  • Love and Summer (Viking, 2009)
  • The Dressmaker’s Child (Penguin Books)

Short story collections

  • The Day We Got Drunk on Cake and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1967)
  • The Ballroom of Romance and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1972)
  • The Last Lunch of the Season (Covent Garden Press, 1973)
  • Angels at the Ritz and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1975)
  • Lovers of their Time (Bodley Head, 1978)
  • Beyond the Pale (Bodley Head, 1981)
  • The Stories of William Trevor (Penguin, 1983)
  • The News from Ireland and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1986)
  • Family Sins and Other Stories (Bodley Head, 1989)
  • Outside Ireland: Selected Stories (Viking, 1992)
  • The Collected Stories (Viking, 1992; Penguin, 1993, 2003)
  • After Rain (Viking, 1996)
  • Cocktails at Doney’s (Bloomsbury Classics, 1996)
  • Fanfare (1999) (with Penelope Fitzgerald, John Mortimer and Carol Shields)
  • The Hill Bachelors (Viking, 2000)
  • A Bit On the Side (Viking, 2004) ISBN 978-0143035916
  • Cheating at Canasta (Viking, 2007) ISBN 978-0670018376
  • Bodily Secrets (Penguin Great Loves, 2007; new selection of stories from earlier collections) ISBN 978-0141033235
  • The Collected Stories (Viking, 2009) ISBN 978-0140232455.
  • Selected Stories (Viking, 2010), listed as “the second volume of his collected stories” ISBN 978-0-670-02206-9.
  • Last Stories (Viking, 2018)

Short fiction

The third party (14 April 1986). The New Yorker. Vol. 62, no. 8. pp. 35–44.

The women (14 January 2013). The New Yorker


  • Out of the Unknown: “Walk’s End” (1966)
  • Play for Today: O Fat White Woman (1971, adaptation from short story)
  • The Old Boys (Davis-Poynter, 1971)
  • A Night with Mrs da Tanka (Samuel French, 1972)
  • Going Home (Samuel French, 1972)
  • Marriages (Samuel French, 1973)
  • The Ballroom of Romance (Pat O’Connor, 1982)
  • Going Home (Samuel French, 1972)

Children’s books

  • Juliet’s Story (The O’Brien Press, Dublin, 1991)
  • Juliet’s Story (Bodley Head, 1992)

Non fiction

  • A Writer’s Ireland: Landscape in Literature (Thames & Hudson, 1984)
  • Excursions in the Real World: memoirs (Hutchinson, 1993)
  • Personal Essays (1999)

As editor

The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories (Oxford University Press, 1989)

Anthologies containing stories by William Trevor

The 8th Ghost Book (1972)
A Book of Contemporary Nightmares (1977)
A Century of Short Stories (1977)
Irish Ghost Stories (1979)
The New Review Anthology (1985)
The Minerva Book of Short Stories 1 (1987)
The Oxford Book of Twentieth-Century Ghost Stories(1996)
The Mammoth Book of Twentieth-Century Ghost Stories(1998)
Nightshade (2000)

You can find a number of William Trevor’s books on (affiliated link).

2 Comments on “The Dressmaker’s Child by William Trevor #ReadingIrelandMonth23 #Begorrathon23 #WilliamTrevor2023

  1. Pingback: #ReadingIrelandMonth23 Roundup and links #TheBegorrathon @cathy746books – Love Books, Read Books

  2. Pingback: The Bell by Iris Murdoch @vintagebooks #ReadingIrelandMonth23 #TheBegorrathon23 – Love Books, Read Books


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