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Category Archive for 'Wales'

Already optioned for a miniseries by the producers of Downton Abbey, this novel has everything that will make this projected series a huge, popular success – a young, ingratiating main character who bumbles along as he tries to sort out his life; a woman to whom he becomes inadvertently engaged and who turns out to be a character worthy of great empathy; another woman who has still not recovered from her loss during World War I; and a Welsh setting in 1924 in Narberth, a small, rural town in Pembrokeshire in which everyone knows everyone else’s business. World War I is over, and the many young men from Narberth who were killed in the war have left behind broken hearts, ruined lives, and devastated families. Young men like Wilfred Price, who have not served in battle, have escaped many of the emotional horrors of the war, insulated from this reality because their professions have been considered essential to their community. Readers who yearn for an old-fashioned tale in which time seems to have stopped will cheer this novel which features fully developed characters who yearn for happiness and do what they can to achieve it within the limits of their society, a welcome respite from some of the harsh realities of twenty-first century life – and a story which will lend itself beautifully to a British mini-series centered on the life of a common man, instead of an aristocrat.

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It has been two years since I have added a new book to my list of All-Time Favorites, but that has just changed with the release of this novel which deserves a special place on my Favorites list. Set in the mining country of South Wales, Vanessa Gebbie’s incandescent new novel captures the cadences and speech patterns that lovers of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood have celebrated for years, and as I read the book (as slowly as possible), it felt as if Richard Burton, whose recording of Under Milk Wood is still in demand, were whispering in my ear. A collection of stories narrated by Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, a beggar who lives on the front porch of a disused chapel in a Welsh mining town, the novel eventually becomes the history of the town itself, and readers will come to know all the characters and their families going back for three generations. The emotional power of this novel is overwhelming without becoming sentimental or syrupy. Filled with wonderful descriptions and emotionally moving insights into people of all types, The Coward’s Tale recreates an entire town, and as the characters develop and overlap throughout the book, the wonder of this author’s achievement expands.

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An unusual and often dark novel, Faith, Hope & Love is billed as an urban thriller, but it is far more the psychological study of an unusual anti-hero than it is a mystery. In fact, the biggest mystery of the book is why the main character is in prison in the first place, a question which does not get answered until late in the novel. The Prologue, entitled “The Beginning of the End,” raises additional questions concerning a car crash, which is described there, and the identities of the people in the car—again, issues which are not addressed again till late in the novel. In between the Prologue and the resolution of these questions, however, the novel is study of Alun Brady and his family, much more a sensitive domestic drama, set in Wales, than an action thriller, a study of identity and reality—personal, familial, cultural, and religious—as revealed through a series of unrelenting ironies in which God, fate, and free will do battle.

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