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.