William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault (2002) depicts, in contemporary Bildungsroman fashion, the life and quest for self-identity of the eponymous heroine. The novel is set in Trevor’s native Ireland, specifically in Lahardane, a mansion along the coast of County Cork. Irish history impacts adversely on Lucy’s story, as readers follow the heroine from her childhood years during the Troubles in the 1920s to World War II and Ireland’s economic miracle at the dawn of the third millennium. The only child of a Protestant family, Lucy refuses to leave Lahardane in the aftermath of a failed arson attack by three local Catholics, thus resigning herself to a sort of self-imposed exile from the world. In Lahardane, which becomes a healing and contemplative place, the heroine devotes herself to reading Victorian novels, keeping bees and gardening, thereby espousing her wounds which however turn out to be “paradoxically productive” (Butler 2003). As usual in Trevor’s fiction, The Story of Lucy Gault can then be read as a trauma story where individual and collective grief experiences are intertwined. Moving from these claims, my paper addresses Lucy’s painful coming-of-age as trauma and self-begetting fiction. I will first argue that Trevor exploits the conventions of the Bildungsroman to illuminate the mystery of human mind, juxtaposing realism with other non-realist genres such as the gothic and the elegiac. Then, I will discuss the influence that trauma exercises on Lucy’ painful growth. Finally, I will examine how the wounded heroine’s exile from the world can be read as a deliberate declaration of autonomy, thereby lending a self-begetting quality to the novel since the heroine is both the object and the producer of the narrative.
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