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How Green Was My Valley

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Many a fantasy novel captured my imagination, but a work of historical fiction set only a few decades in the past? Iestyn inherited one of the mines from his father and Angharad ended up marrying him even though she never got over her love for Mr Gruffyd who made it clear that he could not bear the thought of Angharad having a difficult life with him. The whole thing was daft, if their courtship had been longer or they'd been childhood sweethearts or something then her Owen-related madness/death might have been plausible but that wasn't the case.

For me, part of the problem was that the serial spanned quite a long period and it was a bit home and away, meaning a snap shot of a situation and then fast forward to another time and scene. The story is set around the Morgan family in a Welsh mining town and told by the narrator protagonist, the older Huw Morgan, as he took a long walk down the memory lane before he starts to leave his hometown for a new life abroad. As it winds to its conclusion, it feels both inevitable and gutting: a book you have to sit with for a while after finishing it. Before World War II, he spent periods working in hotels, wrote a play, worked as a coal miner and produced his best known novel.Llewellyn married twice: his first wife was Nona Sonstenby, whom he married in 1952 and divorced in 1968, and his second wife was Susan Heimann, whom he married in 1974. Looking back on the hardships of his early life, where difficult days are faced with courage but 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. Huw is the youngest son in a large family and a lot of the book covers his brothers and sisters and their loves and heartbreaks as they come of age and marry and leave home.

From helping his mother cook her bottomless, delicious meals in the family kitchen, to taking his weekly penny down to the taffy pullers for a length of homemade taffy, to watching his larger-than-life father and stout older brothers make the daily trek down the hill and home from the mines, Huw's life is filled to the brim with the sights and sounds and people of home. It's hard to say much about the book without giving the story away which I don't appreciate so I won't. I am going to pack my two shirts with my other socks and my best suit in the little blue cloth my mother used to tie round her hair when she did the house, and I am going from the Valley. Ivor Morgan, Huw's eldest brother, marries Bronwen, sides with the father against the strike, defends Angharad against Iestyn Evans' initial familiarity.

I found myself lamenting the loss of the time Huw Morgan speaks of, cursing the slag heaps, mourning Ivor's death, and watched in horror as communism clashed with market forces in the collieries of Wales. His famous first novel How Green Was My Valley (1939) was begun in St David's from a draft he had written in India, and was later adapted into an Oscar-winning film by director John Ford.

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