A young narrator recounts the village life of Bethesda in Wales where he is growing up with his ailing Mam, best friends Huw and Moi, and an assortment of idiosyncratic people. Set during the first World War and translated from the original Welsh, I found this classic novel hypnotic, one happenstance rolling into the next with lyrical prose and stunning imagery.
A calm Llyn Idwal, Snowdonia, North Wales, UK Photo (above) byRhys KentishonUnsplash
The boy’s awareness of adult behaviour is both naïve and heart-wrenching, as well as unsettling for a reader like me. He has several graphic encounters, from death to mental illness, told without prejudice or judgement, and his stream-of-consciousness narrative remains strong. One thing the boy is absolutely certain of—he will not work in the slate quarry.
Turn of the century Bethesda, Wales, UK
Modern day Bethesda, Wales, UK
Looking back as an adult, I recall feeling distanced from what was really going on. This boy is in the thick of things and Prichard captures his thoughts so beautifully for adult readers. Some chapters brought tears to my eyes. In chapter 4, my favourite paragraphs are when the boy awakens after a picnic. He feels the desolation of being left behind and desperately tries to find his way home. I remember that type of heart-thumping experience!
A great description‘It was raining stair rods in the morning and I was sitting in school with wet feet cos my shoes leaked’ and in search of dry socks, he discovers a dead body. The quest to find out what happened is revealed in chatter between the boy and Huw. Further into the book, disaster strikes with three significantly life-changing farewells.
Often a bad experience is offset by a good one; a kind gesture (usually a slice of bread) parish humour, the choir, a football match, and rollicking outdoor adventures with school friends which paint a beautiful picture of his part of Wales.
It’s never defined but I think author Caradog Prichard is reliving his early life, factual elements blending with history and mystery. These days it would probably be described drily as ‘social commentary’.
Modern writers would do well to study this slim volume. Roaming in the grown-up world of teachers, priests, policemen and illness, the boy is observant but has no power of his own and that simplicity transcends time and place. He is the epitome of first-person POV, surrounded by subtext which packs a thoughtfully aimed punch.
From a man who knew what he was writing about, ‘One Moonlit Night’ (‘Un Nos Ola Leuad’) is a fine example of storytelling.
PRICHARD, CARADOG (1904-1980) journalist, novelist and poet from Wales UK.
I can recommend the author biography by Menna Baines on National Library of Wales website. Apart from a detailed look at Prichard, it contains photos of the author at home with his dog.
Menna Baines documented his life’s work, and at one point says ‘He published a collection of short stories, Y Genod yn ein Bywyd (‘The Girls in Our Life’ 1964); being heavily autobiographical, they cast some interesting light on his life but have little literary value.’ Ouch!
If you’ve never read a Welsh writer’s work, now is your chance! I’ve been to the library and collected my copy of Under Milk Wood, the radio/stage/film drama by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas to get me started. Read all about Dewithon19 on Book Jotter’s blog….Mwynhewch ddarllen! (Enjoy reading!) ♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Welcome to the first ever Wales Readathon (aka Dewithon 19), a month-long event beginning on Saint David’s Day, during which book bloggers from all parts of the world are encouraged to read, discuss and review literature by and about writers from Wales.
For more in-depth information on this reading jolly, head over to DHQ (Dewithon Headquarters) – and should you wish to take part in the official readalong, please follow this link. You can also share your thoughts and posts on Twitter by using the hashtags #dewithon19 and/or walesreadathon19.
Here we display your Dewithon-related posts. Please leave your links in the comments below or drop me a line with the URL.
This fun tag was brought to my attention by productive book blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley of BookJotter fame. Originally created by Beth of Bibliobeth the idea is to share a picture (aka ‘shelfie’) of your favourite bookshelf and then answer ten questions related to the titles displayed.
Visit Beth’sblog to see more info, the logo and tag and view posts by participating bloggers. Then launch your own unique Q&A Shelfie by Shelfie.
I think many readers will find these titles unfamiliar…
1. Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?
Short answer is ‘subliminally shelved’. Long answer is there are many bookshelves in our home and until I decided to participate in Shelfie by Shelfie I didn’t realise that most of my books are grouped. Either when they arrived or over a period of time, I’m not sure. There are clumps like non-fiction, poetry, humour, crime, fantasy and (not all shown) Australian content.
2. Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you, i.e. how you got it / a memory associated with it, etc.
Hard to pick just one. I know some of the authors (or received uncorrected bound proofs to review prior to publication) but my all-time special one would have to be ‘My Beachcombing Days: Ninety Sea Sonnets’ by Brisbane poet John Blight. His daughter, a family friend, gave it to me as a birthday gift in the same year as disastrous flooding hit the city. The flood waters also coincided with me securing a glam job in a travel agency which had 12 inches of river mud throughout the ground floor office.
3. Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?
No contest! It would be Tom Keneally’s ‘Shame and the Captives’ a semi-factual diatribe about World War II prisoners-of-war from Italy and Japan who are held in a compound in Gawell, New South Wales, but allowed to work on a local farm. It does have its altruistic moments but there’s bloodshed aplenty and the ‘uncertainty and chaos’ never worked for me.
4. Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?
‘Withering-by-Sea’ written by children’s author and illustrator Judith Rossell. Young heroine Stella Montgomery is the epitome of someone I would have loved to have known when I was a child. I did read a lot of British kids books! Set in Victorian England, the story is both adventurous and creepy. Apart from dressing up as a mature-age Stella Montgomery for library Book Week, two years ago I had my copy of the book signed by Judith Rossell when I attended her writers workshop in historic Abbotsford Convent, Melbourne.
5. Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?
Hmm, that would be a toss-up between Nobel Prize for Literature winner Patrick White ‘The Cockatoos’ and Miles Franklin ‘My Brilliant Career’ both yellowing reprints dated 1974 and 1979 respectively. I guess Mr White wins.
6. Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?
Another toss of the coin. ‘Truly Tan Hoodwinked!’ (Book 5) kids chapter book written by Jen Storer, and ‘Care of Australian Wildlife: For Gardeners, Landholders and Wildlife Carers’ by Erna Walraven, a 2004 revised edition but in mint condition and recently purchased in a second-hand bookshop. The most adorable teeny tiny Koala baby is on the front cover. The Koala wins by a nose.
7. Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)
I have a ‘thing’ for DBC Pierre, expat Aussie writer, and admire his off-kilter books. I own two of his novels (the rest were loans) and love ‘Breakfast with the Borgias’ which I willingly re-read; and I’m usually not a re-reader. Perhaps the fact that one of the characters is named Gretchen has something to do with it.
8. If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.
There is a small cardboard cut-out figure of Lisa Simpson from TV series The Simpsons which probably came with a McDonalds meal deal. Lisa is holding an armload of books and in the show she is the lone advocate of literacy and learning. I always like to think she influenced a generation of TV viewers to read. And that she’s happy on this shelf.
9. What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?
It doesn’t tell you that I borrow hugely from my local library; or that I read too many e-books; nor that my current audio book is, ironically, ‘The Book Case’ by Dave Shelton narrated by Colleen Prendergast. It does shout that I’m an Australian reader.
I read most genres and most writers regardless of nationality (translated helps!) but I keep coming back to Australian authors. In an online book forum, I recall an American reader saying he only read American books because he understood them. He didn’t mean the language, he meant emotional ties, recognition, connection. That’s what I get from Australian books, nevertheless, I do think we have to step outside our comfort zone.
10. Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.
A free question I can make up sounds good. NOTE I do not activate Comments, you will have to answer it in your own Shelfie by Shelfie blog post.
BONUS QUESTION: Do you discuss the books you read in a face-to-face situation, online book reviews, or clutch your latest read to your chest saying ‘my precious, my precious’?
Happy reading, blog stars!
For modern Australian book reviews I can recommend blogger and bookseller Simon McDonald https://writtenbysime.com/ while this list contains notably mature Australian authors: Thea Astley
Janette Turner Hospital
Jill Ker Conway
Leonie Judith Kramer
John Dunmore Lang
James Phillip McAuley
Bernard Patrick O’Dowd
Katherine Susannah Prichard
Henry Handel Richardson
Alfred George Stephens
Arthur William Upfield
One post with three headings READING, LOOKING, THINKING an idea started by Book Jotter, innovative blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley. Her invitation to participate offers a slight change from ‘Thinking’ to ‘Doing’ if that suits your purpose but I’m sticking with the first format. Also, I am restricting myself to around 200 wordcount per heading. I can love, like or loathe in three short bursts!
READING:Let’s not pretend we always read high calibre books like Booker Prize winners and heady non-fiction tomes, most people like a bit of lowbrow stuff to pass the time without stretching the brain too much.
This is why I love reading ebooks on my iPad, so accessible via OverDrive, and so many back numbers that it’s easy to binge on a writer’s complete oeuvre. At the moment my guilty pleasure, no, rephrase that, my escapism is prolific British author Simon Brett and his Fethering Mysteries series. A cross between Agatha Raisin, Miss Marple and cosy crime books featuring ‘mature’ women, Brett has created retiree Carole Seddon and her neighbour Jude, a healer, who live in an English seaside village which thrives on gossip and, you guessed it, murder. Amateur sleuths Carole and Jude manage to solve crimes without external help, e.g. police, by persistence and sheer nosiness. Exploits often revolve around fragmented marital relationships. The first book I read was “Bones Under The Beach Hut”, coincidentally while I was on a beach holiday, and have enjoyed the consistency of the characters ever since, although some plots are more gripping than others. Apart from Fethering series, Simon Brett has also written the Charles Paris, Mrs Pargeter, and Blotto & Twinks series of crime novels. GBW.
LOOKING: My movie review of the HBO television version of Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies” could be filled with vitriol but I’ll rein it in.
How did it go so wrong? Why base the story on a best-selling book if you aren’t even going to try to recreate the ambience? I was one of the first to read and review the novel “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty (before I became a blogger) and I knew it was a winner. Modern, edgy, clever, the plot was enhanced by social media comments from witnesses, police, etc, which obviously didn’t translate to the screen. In the turgid, overblown DVD 3-disc version, which thankfully I borrowed free from the library, the school-obsessed mothers were rich, pampered, spoilt like their children and their husbands were just as bad. I could not relate, nor feel any sympathy for the movie characters although they were portrayed by big-name actors. I can’t even begin to write about the weak build up and even weaker ending. Moriarty’s name does not get credited on the DVD case and the words ‘based on’ is unreasonable. In my view, the book is brilliant and regrettably I think anybody who has seen the HBO depiction will have a tainted view of the genuine meaning. GBW.
THINKING: Dog eats possum in suburban backyard. No, not a newspaper headline, something which happened in my quiet, sober suburban street two days ago.
For a start, there are three dogs which is against Council bylaws and one of them has just birthed ‘accidental’ puppies. They are territorial so they bark at anything that moves, people walking, kids on bikes, and possums. Possums are a fact of life in my suburb, we have possum-proofed our house. On a moonlit night they will pound across the roof, jumping from tree to tree, house to house in search of food. I won’t go into the habits of possums, the main thought I can’t get out of my head is my neighbour calmly telling me the mother dog caught and ate a possum. Horribly, I had heard the commotion, the desperate squealing, so my fears were confirmed. The said neighbour let this happen because it was ‘good nourishment’ for the lactating dog. Suburban possums are full of parasites, the least of which is worms. That dog has now given those worms to her puppies. I’m not squeamish, I understand how the animal world survives but that’s in the countryside, not a suburban block where owners need to conform and dogs need to be domesticated. GBW.
My foray into reading Welsh authors began with Jasper Fforde (Thursday Next) Paula Brackston (Shadow Chronicles) and Bill James (Harpur & Iles) and now, thanks to Book Jotter Paula Bardell-Hedley and Dewithon19, I have a wonderful list to continue reading in more depth. “dw i’n hapus iawn!”
Find more about reading, writing, reviewing Welsh literature on Dewithon19–––
Welcome to DHQ (Dewithon Headquarters), the nerve centre for Reading Wales 2019!
The people of Wales celebrate St David’s Day annually on 1st March – the date of our patron saint’s death in 589 CE. In honour of this traditional anniversary, and also in recognition of the time of year when daffodils (the national flower of Wales) explode into bloom, we will hold the very first Dewithon – Dewi being the diminutive form of the Welsh name Dafydd (David).
Throughout March 2019 the international book blogging community will be invited to write about the literature of Wales. This will include reviews and articles about novels, non-fiction publications, short story anthologies, biographical works (by or about Welsh writers), travelogues, volumes of poetry (or single poems), essay collections, or indeed any texts with a meaningful connection to Wales.