Yiyun Li Recommends

“I would very much like to recommend William Trevor’s novel Other People’s Worlds,” Li writes. “Trevor may not be an underread author but often when he is mentioned, he is called a master of short stories. He is also a master of novels. Other People’s Worlds was published in 1980, Trevor’s eighth novel and twelfth fiction work–just think how many authors’ twelfth book would be considered an early work. (As of last year, Trevor has published twenty-nine books.) It starts with a slightly unconventional wedding between a forty-seven-year old widow and a young, attractive, second-rate actor in a tranquil stone house where everyone tries to stay positive about the marriage, while a sales assistant in a department store in London drinks every night and dreams that the actor, who was the father of her only child, would come to her like a husband. The narrative then moves from one character’s world to another’s and unfolds the most horrible tragedy in a very humane and sympathetic way. Unlike a lot of novels where, by the last chapter or two, we can feel the authors’ eagerness to wrap up everything, Trevor is very patient and makes every line matter till the very end. Read slowly and marvel at this perfect novel.”

Yiyun Li grew up in China and started to publish in English in 2002. She is the author of A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.