Weekend Bookends # 5

A weekly round up of miscellaneous bookish news you may have missed.

Literature Prizes

I’ve been so busy keeping an eye on the various bookish prizes announced recently that I completely forgot the awards in my own country would be revealed any day now.

The shortlist for the Wales Book of the Year Award was in fact announced only recently I’ve discovered so fortunately I’m not that far behind with the news. The winners will be announced in July.

This is a set of awards for work in the Welsh language or written in the English language by someone born or resident in Wales.

There are three titles in the fiction short list, none of them I am embarrassed to admit that I have read.

Clever Girl by Tessa Hadley. Hadley lives in Wales and has already had some collections of short stories published.

The Drive by Tyler Keevil. Keevil is actually Canadian by birth but has lived and worked for a theatre in education group in Wales for many years

The Rice Paper Diaries by Francesca Rhydderch. Rydderch’s surname leaves no doubt about her claim to Welsh identity. The Rice Paper Diaries is her debut novel. This is the finalist I would most enjoy reading I suspect. It focuses on a British family taken prisoner by the Japanese in Hong Kong in the second world war. We see their lives before internment, life in the camp and then the return to Britain after the war.

Down memory lane

Way back in my youth I developed a passion for historical fiction. My favourite was Jean Plaidy but I quickly exhausted all her books. I flirted with Georgette Heyer for a while but quickly tired of her Regency period romances. Life moved on and my interests changed and I forgot about historical fiction for years – and then one day after finishing my last university finals exam when I really wanted something to read that was not screaming English Literature at me, I came across a novel by Mary Stewart. It was The Crystal Cave, the first in a trilogy set in Arthurian times. I read it that afternoon and went back for the second, The Hollow Hills. A couple of days later I was deep into the final novel, The Last Enchantment. In all three novels she vividly captured the Celtic love of mythology and nature as she relayed the legend of Arthur through the eyes of a Welsh merlin.

It’s decades now since I last read a Mary Stewart novel but I was reminded of that delicious moment from my youth this morning when I read that she had died at the ripe age of 97. Although she had a long and successful career (her last novel was published in 1995) somehow she never seemed to achieve the popularity of Plaidy. Such a shame because as the obituary pointed out, she was meticulous in her research and fiercely defended her work against those who questioned its authenticity.

Now here’s my dilemma. Do I reread part (or maybe all) that trilogy for old time’s sake? I’m nervous that it might not live up to my recollection and then a wonderful memory would be spoiled. Maybe it’s safer to procrastinate 🙂



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

2 thoughts on “Weekend Bookends # 5

  • I rather fancy The Rice Paper Diaries as well. I wonder if she has family history in this area?

    I also loved Stewart’s Arthurian novels, although I’ve never read anything else by her. I would give them a go. You can always stop if you find your memories are being threatened.

    • You are right Alex, there is a family connection indeed. I think it was an aunt. the idea for the title came because the aunt had kept envelopes sent from Hong Kong (but nothing inside them)


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