Saturday, 1 March 2014

Wales in Fiction!

Happy St David's Day/Dydd Gŵyl Dewi!

I'm not Welsh, but my parents, my sister and my niece all live in South Wales, and I feel like Welsh Fiction - whether it's fiction written in Welsh, written by the Welsh, or simply set in Wales - doesn't get enough recognition.

So today I thought I'd share with you five books, all of which are still on my TBR shelf, to spread a bit of Welsh love!

Celtic mythology, Arthurian romance, and an intriguing interpretation of British history--these are just some of the themes embraced by the anonymous authors of the eleven tales that make up the Welsh medieval masterpiece known as the Mabinogion. They tell of Gwydion the shape-shifter, who can create a woman out of flowers; of Math the magician whose feet must lie in the lap of a virgin; of hanging a pregnant mouse and hunting a magical boar. Dragons, witches, and giants live alongside kings and heroes, and quests of honour, revenge, and love are set against the backdrop of a country struggling to retain its independence.

by Richard Llewellyn

Growing up in a mining community in rural South Wales, Huw Morgan is taught many harsh lessons. Looking back, where difficult days are faced with courage and the valleys swell with the sound of Welsh voices, it becomes clear that there is nowhere so green as the landscape of his own memory.

by Sharon Penman

Thirteenth-century Wales is a divided country, ever at the mercy of England's ruthless, power-hungry King John. Then Llewelyn, Prince of North Wales, secures an uneasy truce with England by marrying the English king's beloved, illegitimate daughter, Joanna. Reluctant to wed her father's bitter enemy, Joanna slowly grows to love her charismatic and courageous husband who dreams of uniting Wales. But as John's attentions turn again and again to subduing Wales--and Llewelyn--Joanna must decide to which of these powerful men she owes her loyalty and love.

by Robin Llywelyn

Gwern started the war. By mistake. He and his friends, Pilgrim and Saffron Tinker, are trying hard to put things right. Perhaps a little too hard. Their journey takes them across Sunless Summer to the badlands on a diet of ice locust sandwiches. They get promoted as diplomats and even manage fifteen minutes as fighter pilots. As the evil Empire of the Heartless Bodies threatens to conquer the High Country, Gwern, Pilgrim and Saffron Tinker are learning a lot about allegiance.

by Peter Ho Davies

Young Esther Evans has lived her whole life within the confines of her remote mountain village. The daughter of a fiercely nationalistic sheep farmer, Esther yearns for a taste of the wider world that reaches her only through broadcasts on the BBC. Then, in the wake of D-day, the world comes to her in the form of a German POW camp set up on the outskirts of Esther's village.

The arrival of the Germans in the camp is a source of intense curiosity in the local pub, where Esther pulls pints for both her neighbors and the unwelcome British guards. One summer evening she follows a group of schoolboys to the camp boundary. As the boys heckle the prisoners across the barbed wire fence, one soldier seems to stand apart. He is Karsten Simmering, a German corporal, only eighteen, a young man of tormented conscience struggling to maintain his honor and humanity. To Esther's astonishment, Karsten calls out to her.

These two young people from worlds apart will be drawn into a perilous romance that calls into personal question the meaning of love, family, loyalty, and national identity. The consequences of their relationship resonate through the lives of a vividly imagined cast of characters: the drunken BBC comedian who befriends Esther, Esther's stubborn father, and the resentful young British "evacuee" who lives on the farm -- even the German-Jewish interrogator investigating the most notorious German prisoner in Wales, Rudolf Hess.

Do let me know if you've read any of these! I actually have a copy of White Star on the way to me in the post - I'm really interested in reading it because it's a translation, having originally been written in Welsh under the title Seren Wen ar Gefndir Gwyn.

I'm hoping to read all of these this year!

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