My local library has introduced a program called Speed Reads. In the interests of increasing the circulation of the most popular books, a patron may borrow a best-seller for just a week, and very steep fines are imposed for late returns. Under these onerous conditions, I took out a copy of The Story of Lucy Gault, a novel by the Irish writer William Trevor (Knopf). The story begins in Ireland in the 1920s, when the owner of a country house takes a potshot at a group of would-be arsonists, wounding one of them in the shoulder. The rest of the novel describes the impact of this small event on the lives of the main characters, including the eponymous heroine, who is a young girl when the shot is fired. The details of the story are slightly far-fetched, but it is told in sentences of such beauty that it doesn’t really matter. Trevor’s early novels are hilarious comedies. More recent novels, like Felicia’s Journey (which Atom Egoyan turned into a movie) and Death in Summer, are suffused with an atmosphere of creepy menace. Lucy Gault contains neither menace nor humour; instead, it overflows with tenderness and sorrow. I read the last part of it while sitting in my car in a ferry lineup, on my way back to town to meet the library due date, and as I finished the book I discovered tears running down my cheeks. What, I wondered, would other motorists think of this solitary man sitting behind his steering wheel bawling? Would they think that someone close to him had died, or that he had lost his dog? Or would they guess that he had just finished one of the saddest books he had ever read?