It’s about time I rounded off my Dewithon experience, late as usual. Including the two books still unfinished, I notched up twelve books.
Usually I finish maybe five in a month so I’m rather proud of that though some were quite slim volumes, which helped, and four were children’s books which again, are quick reads. Nonetheless, I’m pleased with the range of reading as much as the number of titles. It was a thoroughly positive experience to immerse myself in a month of themed reading and I plan to do it again, although not just yet! And the experience was enhanced by Paula’s assiduous collating and commenting, plus the many and varied posts by others. Unfortunately only one of my dozen was a book I already owned, and none came from my TBR list. In fact, the TBR is now significantly bolstered by Welsh literature gleaned from recommendations and other contributors’ reviews. I hadn’t bargained for that!
Thinking about how to pull together my month of Welsh reading, I came across another article by Owen Sheers which is written from the perspective of a Welshman, yet underlines how I’ve felt as I’ve been reading. I’ve been surprised by how little I knew of Welsh literature but Sheers points out that for much of the last century relatively little anglo-welsh literature was available. He contrasts the relationship between English and Irish literature against that of English and Welsh, and certainly for myself I could rattle off numerous Irish writers but I’d struggle to match that with a string of Welsh. Sheers was writing towards the beginning of the Library of Wales initiative, which now includes more than fifty titles – each a twentieth-century classic which had previously fallen out of print. He explains that the intention at the time of his article (2006) was that every school and public library in Wales should have a full set of these books.
“… in an attempt to restock what the series editor Professor Dai Smith describes as, “a national memory bank that just wasn’t as available as you would expect it to be”.
I hope that aim has been achieved and I hope there are now plenty of these books to be found in English libraries too. Discovering the Library of Wales series, along with several small Welsh publishers that I’d heard of but never really looked at properly, have been added bonuses for me.
Rounding-off then, here’s a summary of what I read. I plan to review all of the books eventually and I’ll add the links as I go.
The Snow Spider
Emlyn’s Moon by Jenny Nimmo reviewed together
The Chestnut Soldier here
The Owl Service by Alan Garner review to follow
The Glass Hollow by Owen Sheers reviewed here
A Private Language by Marion Eames discussed here
The Autobiography of a SuperTramp
by W H Davies review to follow
At the Source: A Writer’s Year by Gillian Clarke review to follow
Eve Green by Susan Fletcher review to follow
Cove by Cynan Jones review to follow
The Second Penguin Book of Welsh Short Stories edited by Alun Richards (still reading)
The Valley, The City, The Village by Glyn Jones (still reading)
When all the reviews are finally finished, I’ll have added three more to my Classics Club list, (I’m counting The Snow Spider Trilogy as one) and discovered a book which resonates so strongly that it will become the first in my 100 Book Library – another initiative from Paula which I’ll write about soon. I’ve encountered five new authors, excluding those in the short story collection and most importantly, gained a stronger understanding of the Welsh experience: the history, the language, the culture.
Sheers begins his article thus:
“While any good writing will transcend national borders it is still in literature, and perhaps most of all in the novel, that national identity and character are often best reflected. Yet, looking back across the border from England in the mid-1990s, I couldn’t see the innate Welshness I felt within me represented anywhere in a body of fiction.”
Whilst acknowledging that I’ve barely scratched the surface, I feel able to say that my reading so far has given me a glimpse of that innate Welshness: of the people, the country, the culture and the history. I’m still hoping we will make a road trip through Wales this year. If we do, I will see Wales through new eyes.