August 15, 2007 archive

How Green Was My Valley – Book Review

How green was my Valley then, and the Valley of them that have gone – From How Green Was My Valley-

Richard Llewellyn has crafted a fine modern day classic with his expansive family saga set in the late 1800s in a South Wales coal mining town. Huw Morgan, now an old man, is ready to leave his home forever as a black slag heap threatens the village. But, before he goes, he looks back on his childhood and young adult life. His memories include work in the coal mines and the formation of unions with their strikes and violence; as well as more tender moments of a boy’s first love.

Beginning when Huw is only six years old, How Green Was My Valley is lovingly told and builds to its inevitable ending with a grace and simplicity enhanced by Llewellyn’s fine voice and lyrical Welsh dialect. The characters that inhabit the novel are tender, humorous, strong and real. One of my favorites is Mr. Gruffydd, the village pastor, who befriends Huw and his family.

When Mr. Gruffydd started his sermon, he always put a few sheets of paper on the ledge by the Bible, but never once was he seen to use them. He started to speak as though he were talking to a family, quietly, in a voice not loud, not soft. But presently you would hear a note coming into it and your hair would go cold at the back. It would drop don and down, until you could hear what he said only from the shapes of his mouth, but then he would throw a rock of sound into the quiet and bring your blood splashing up inside you, and keep it boiling for minutes while the royal thunder of his voice proclaimed again the Kingdom of God, and the Principality of Christ the Man. -From How Green Was My Valley, page 165-

Llewellyn writes as a musician composes a great symphony – exacting, beautifully wrought, with an ear for poetry and harmony. How Green Was My Valley is a novel about family unity, love, the pain of disappointment and the joy of shared dreams; it is about the strength of neighbors and the beauty of the Welsh countryside. Exquisitely rendered, it is a story the reader immerses herself in and never wants to end.

Highly recommended.

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