I’m heading to Wales in March!
Well, at least in my mind I’ll be in Wales for the month of March. I’m participating in the month-long Wales Readathon — Dewithon 20 — hosted by Paula of Book Jotter.
Here are the books I plan to read:
One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard. Paula chose this as the group read for the month. It’s a novel about a boy and his mother in a Welsh village between the years 1915-1920. It was published in 1961 and in 2014 was voted The Greatest Welsh Novel.
In a small Welsh village during the dark days of World War I, a nameless narrator chronicles a year of loss, grief, and madness in Caradog Prichard’s One Moonlit Night. Originally published in 1961, this Welsh-language novel has been eloquently translated into English by Philip Mitchell, perhaps garnering Prichard the wide recognition his novels have long enjoyed in his native land.
Less a novel than a loosely connected series of tales, Prichard peoples his fictional world with characters such as Grace Ellen Shoe Shop, Will Starch Collar, and Johnny Beer Barrel. Though One Moonlit Night has its lighter moments, its story is primarily a sad one: the narrator’s mother is sent to an insane asylum; one close friend dies of tuberculosis while another moves away; village men die in the faraway killing fields of the war as the loved ones they leave behind live in unrelenting poverty. Eventually, something terrible happens.
In One Moonlit Night, perfection is in the details–the loving evocations of the townspeople and the physical and emotional landscapes they inhabit. Dark as it is at times, Prichard’s tragic tale is leavened by humor and illuminated by prose that is lyrical and deeply stirring.
None So Blind by Alis Hawkins. This was recommended to me by Karen from Booker Talk. It’s the first novel in a historical mystery series set in 1850s West Wales. The series is called the Teifi Valley Coroner Series and the second book is coming out later this spring.
A brilliant new historical mystery series set in the 1850s.
West Wales, 1850. When an old tree root is dug up, the remains of a young woman are found. Harry Probert-Lloyd, a barrister forced home from London by encroaching blindness, has been dreading this discovery. He knows exactly whose bones they are.
Working with his clerk, John Davies, Harry is determined to expose the guilty. But the investigation turns up more questions than answers. Questions that centre around three names. Rebecca, the faceless leader of an angry mob who terrorise those they hate. Nathaniel Howell, a rabble-rousing chapel minister preaching a revolutionary gospel. And David Thomas, an ominous name with echoes from Harry’s past.
Is it Rebecca who is intent on ending Harry and John’s enquiry? Why did Nathaniel Howell disappear when Rebecca’s insurrection was at its height? And can Harry keep the secrets of his own past safely buried?
The search for the truth will prove costly. But will Harry and John be the ones to pay the highest price?
The Woman in the Dark by Vanessa Savage. This is another novel recommend to me by Karen. It’s a contemporary psychological thriller about a couple trying to make a new start.
For Sarah and Patrick, family life has always been easy. But when Sarah’s mother dies, it sends Sarah into a downwards spiral. Knowing they need a fresh start, Patrick moves the family to the beachside house he grew up in.
But there is a catch: while their new home carries only happy memories for Patrick, to everyone else it’s known as the Murder House – named for the family that was killed there.
Patrick is adamant they can make it perfect again, though with their children plagued by nightmares and a constant sense they’re being watched, Sarah’s not so sure. Because the longer they live in their ‘dream home’, the more different her loving husband becomes . . .
I ordered copies of the three books above from Book Depository on February 20th and they’re on their way from the UK. Fingers crossed they arrive soon. The two mystery/thrillers will tie in nicely with #MarchMysteryMadness (I don’t know who to credit for that challenge or hashtag).
I already own the following two books:
The Literature of Wales by Dafydd Johnston. This relatively short introduction — just over 200 pages — was first published in 1994 and revised in 2014. There are twelve chapters which cover everything from early heroic poetry to contemporary literature. I’ll be doing some train commuting this week and this book will be my companion.
A concise and authoritative survey of the Welsh- and English-language literatures of Wales from the earliest period up to the present day. This illustrated guide, containing extracts from original texts with English translations, is a revised version of Professor Dafydd Johnston’s volume in the University of Wales Press Pocket Guide series, and includes a new chapter on contemporary writing.
Everything I Found on the Beach by Cynan Jones. This’ll be my second novel by Jones. This is a story about three men, “strangers who all want something more.” Desperation, duty, and a brutal struggle ensues. I read Jones’ short novel, The Cove, in 2017 which is a beautifully written and thrilling story about a kayaker who gets hit by lightening. Really looking forward to reading this one.
A dark tale of slavery, immigration, and murder set on the west coast of Wales, this is a startling portrait of three ordinary lives taken to extremes. In the aching cold where night bumps into day, Hold hears noises struggling to keep up. One random technical hitch later and the three men are set on a journey that none could have foreseen, none can halt, and that ends as abruptly as it began.
Do you have a favorite Welsh writer? Want to join in or learn more about the literature of Wales? Check in at Dewithon Headquarters and use the hashtag #dewithon20 on social media.