Book Reviews

Tuning Up For Wales Reading Month

Wales literature

The Wales Readathon – also known as Dewithon 2020 – kicks off tomorrow. This is an initiative hosted by Paula at BookJotter to celebrate the literature of Wales. Through March you can expect to see the international book blogging community join forces to read and review novels, essays, poems by Welsh authors.

As a Welsh native I can’t possibly let the opportunity slip to showcase the literature from the land of my birth. We may be small in acreage and population (roughly 3.2million people and about as many sheep) but our Principality can boast a host of talented writers.

I’ve been featuring many of these authors on this blog over the past few years. You can find a quick guide to Welsh literature here. i’ve also created a list of
80 novels by Welsh authors to help readers who don’t know where to begin with literature from Wales. Some are classics from the 19th century, others are more modern works. Most of those authors I suspect you’ve not heard of but I hope Dewithon will go some way to remedying that.

Now my dilemma, as always, is what to read myself. I have an abundance of options on my “owned but unread” bookshelves. There were eighteen at the last count, a mixture of contemporary novels and “classics” like Cwmcardy by Lewis Jones which I’m unlikely to get around to because it’s rather long. My copy, which also includes the follow up We Live, comes in at 800 plus pages. Just look at the picture below to see why I’m nervous about this one. There is no way of knowing when the one book ends and the other begins so reading just the first part isn’t an option.

Here’s what I’ve come up with as a shortlist of the contemporary novels.

Contemporary Welsh Authors

West by Carys Davies is a cert. I read her short story collection The Redemption of Galen Pike a few years ago and was blown away by it which is amazing considering I am not a fan of short stories at all. West is her first novel. It gives us a glimpse of early frontier life in what became the United States of America.

Judith Barrow is a Welsh author that I’ve not yet read. A Hundred Tiny Threads is the first of her four (soon to be five) novels. I thought it would be a good companion read to The White Camelia by Juliet Greenwood (another Welsh author) which I’ve just finished. Both books are set in the early twentieth century when women are women are eager for experiences beyond marriage and children.

And I do need to read In Two Minds by Alis Hawkins which is the second in her historical crime series set in mid nineteenth century rural Wales. The first None So Blind was fantastic so I have high hopes for this one. Book number three comes out in May so I need to put my skates on.

Classics of Welsh Literature

My stack of “classics” has grown rapidly because of the initiative by the National Library of Wales to republish some of the books that went out of print. Hence why I ended up with Cwmcardy and also Border Country by Raymond Williams.

Border Country is set in rural South Wales, close to the border with England; an area Williams knew personally,   It’s a novel big on ideas about social conditions and the working class, appropriately so since Williams was a well respected academic who took a Marxist approach to his work.

I’m more likely to read Turf or Stone by Margiad Evans which is also set in rural Wales though has a much darker tone. It’s apparently a tale of “passion, violence, cruelty and unexpected tenderness” and came highly recommended by Richard Davies, at Parthian, the publishers of the National Library series.

Right at the top you can just see another classic – One Moonlight Night by Caradog Pritchard. Paula has chosen this for a readalong during the month of March. I managed to retrieve my copy from my niece who has this habit of “borrowing” books, none of which I ever seem to see again.

One Moonlight Night, published in 1961, is set in a Welsh village during the years 1915-1920 and tells the story of a mother-son relationship from the perspective of the boy. It’s based on Pritchard’s own experience of growing up in the Camarthanshire area.

Join The Readathon

If you’re interested in discovering more about Welsh literature, do come and join us in Dewithon 2020. Details are here on Paula’s site. Or you can watch from a distance by keeping an eye on the Twitter hashtag #dewithon20.


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

15 thoughts on “Tuning Up For Wales Reading Month

  • I own Snap and None So Blind, so I’ll try to read those in March. I also really want to read Howl’s Moving Castle, and I’ve put The Dig on my TBR list. Thanks for sharing all the information about Welsh authors!

    • The Dig is one I’m interested in too though I know it’s a tough read just because of the detail about badger baiting.

  • One Moonlight Night was made into a play (Full Moon) which was performed at Theatre Clwyd more than 20 years ago. I saw it and it was brilliant. My future son-in-law was in it and it was there that he met my daughter who was the designer. Happy memories.

  • Not sure I have anything Welsh on my tbr this year, but I will check and join in if I can. Good luck, I’ll be watching from the sidelines.

  • I will do my best to join in. I have a book tagged Wales on the TBR called The Hiding Place and it’s by Trezza Azzopardi (which sounds Italian, but she was born in Cardiff.)
    So I have the book, just not the eyes! I’ve had some eye surgery (cataracts plus glaucoma prevention) and at the moment I can’t read, because with one eye done and the other one not, my glasses are confused and so is my brain and I get terrible headaches. Next week I have the other one done, and hopefully once that settles down I will be able make up for lost time.

    • That was her debut novel and unusually was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. I’ve not read it though.
      Sorry to hear about the eye problem. Cataract operations have a great success rate so hopefully your difficulties will soon be over. The headaches don’t sound much fun at all..

  • Lovely looking books and hope you enjoy a good number of them. I’m actually working on a Welsh book at the moment, so there’s at least that!

  • I’d love to join in if time permits, although I’ve failed most challenges so far this year. I shall watch with interest from the sidelines even if I don’t take part!

    • There are so many challenges and reading events competing fir our attention.


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