Monday, April 21, 2014

book review How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn (historical fiction)

How Green Was My Valley is about a family, a community, a place, a country, a culture, a time. But, even though it is nestled comfortably in history, the author's comment on environmentalism is timeless.
This book was acquired for my library thanks to a friend's moving-off-island yard sale.
First published in 1939; it was re-released in 1968. 
I mentioned reading this book to another, older friend. She replied, "I loved that movie. Roddy McDowell was so cute."
I didn't know that the book had become a movie. And I was delighted to find this - which gave me an opportunity to watch the movie in its entirety. (But, in my humble opinion, the movie is a pale imitation of the book. However, I did find others on the Internet who disagreed with this views.) More about the film.

Blurb (from the back of the book):  In the beginning were the green mountain and the fertile valleys and the people were happy.
Then below the meadows they discovered coal. And the men of the fields were transformed into people who laboured in darkness. People who fought, loved, drank and sang in the shadows of the great collieries. People who lived with danger and disaster -- who had forgotten how green their valley had been.

'I am going to pack...and I am going from the Valley.' (p. 5)

Why? Where is he going? In search of the answers to these questions I began to read and soon I was captured within the pages of this book.

The following are my reflections as I read...

The wording is so simple and yet so vivid...
'[H]er face white and her eyes black and her hair blowing about her, and her cloak like a witch's in coils with the wind.' (p. 125)

'Beautiful were the days that are gone, and O, for them to be back.' (p. 127)

The hold a land has on its people...

'[W]e were part of the Valley, not one more than the other, never one without the other. Of me was the Valley and the Valley was of me...
My Valley, O my Valley, within me, I will live in you, eternally.' (p. 179)

'My little one' is a term of endearment in general use throughout the book--men to women, women to men, men to men, women to women. It struck me, at first, as a belittling term. But, with further reading, I saw clearly that this wasn't the intent. 

The book is riddled with surprises. Yet none as much as the feminist overtones. The opinions expressed seem so advanced for the time.

It's interesting to read the protagonist, Huw Morgan, heap praise on Dicken's books and realize that, that author must have influenced Richard Llewellyn's work. In this way, the character reveals the author.

The Morgan's live such a simple life, such a hard one, and such sadness--but they seem so happy. What do they have that we, with all our technical advancements, have lost?

Such wonderful terms of phrase...
'[L]ooking around the kitchen to see if things to say were hiding behind the teapot, or behind the plates on the dresser, or the copper pots on the mantlepiece.' (p. 304)

As the book draws to conclusion, I wait for the big reveal. When will Huw bring us to his present time? What is Huw doing now? Why is he preparing to leave his boyhood home? 
The answer I'm given is more profound then my silly questions.
'An age of goodness I knew, and badness too, mind, but more of good than bad, I will swear...
But you have gone now, all of you, that were so beautiful when you were quick with life. Yet not gone, for you are still a living truth inside my mind...
For if he is, then I am dead, and we are dead, and all of sense a mockery.
How green was my Valley, then, and the Valley of them that have gone.' (p. 376 - 377)
I find in these words a tender longing for the sweetness of belonging. And yet, it is not gone as long as we remember it, as long as we carry it within our heart.

And here's an even better review of this book
Guest Post Friday:  Cozy Cat Press
Sharing my author journey

Usually there's a difference between Manitoba and B.C. rain. When it rains in Manitoba you're going to get wet and it's going to happen now. In B.C. there are categories of rain from light showers to heavy downpours. But usually it trickles. Usually but not last Thursday. Last Thursday it poured. And through this sheet of rain my in-laws and I searched for the Cottage Bistro. It wasn't easy but 

we found it. Parking was non-existent. So they let me off as close to the door as they could get. 'Bistro' – I imaged cozy tables with two to four chairs. Hmm, no. I walked into a dimly lit bar. The place was packed. A large centre table dominated the room.

I had to thoughts
2)where do I sit?
I immediately shoved thought number one out of mind. That was the chicken's way out.
Thought number two wouldn't have posed a problem if I'd been more of an extrovert. I would have just walked over to an empty chair – any empty chair – and introduced myself. But frankly the thought of doing something like that is foreign to me. So I made my way to the bar.

“I'm here to listen to the readings,” I told a waitress.

I thought maybe she'd direct me to a reserved table. Nope. All I got in return was a blank stare. Thought number one leapt back into my mind.

“I'm not sure where to sit,” I said, fighting the urge to flee.

The expression on the waitress' face changed from puzzlement to understanding. “Do you see that woman sitting in the corner of the room, by the window. She said if anyone came alone they could sit at her table.”

That was such a kind and thoughtful invitation and I didn't hesitate to accept it. I claimed a chair and shortly there after the entertainment began. Readings from five authors were sandwiched between music by local jazz musicians. It made for an enjoyable night.

I didn't accomplish all the goals I'd set for myself. For example, I did little to promote this blog. But I did thank two of the authors for reading and I distributed two information sheets—regarding this blog.

All told, I'm very proud of myself. I meet the challenge of the night, rose above my fears and was successful.