Tuesday, April 21, 2009

significant writers: richard llewellyn

The Welsh have given us many wonderful things: the Welsh revivals (there have been several), hymns before football matches (soccer in Canada & the US), coal miners that sing well, Richard Burton, Dylan Thomas . . . and the novel How Green Was My Valley ought to be added to my truncated and certainly non-exhaustive list.

The book is so lyrical it's almost a poem from beginning to end. Wonderful metaphors and similes pull the reader's imagination in. It is the colour of the fiery green Welsh grass, the deep black Welsh coal, the pigeon grey Welsh winter sky. It is the colour of people and of language and of family happiness and family anguish.

At one time I believe the book was better known. Now, unless it pops up on a course in UK lit, I believe it's largely forgotten. But if Dylan Thomas had written a novel, it might have had this book's fluidity and imagery and phrasing if not exactly the same themes or immediate clarity.

Yes, I mentioned that family was in it – so is growing up, so is love and school and first kisses, so are hatreds and strikes and violence. And God. God has to be around somewhere if we're talking about the Welsh and God's there all right, often treated with worship and reverence, but often as not challenged in anger.

I like book covers and I like good ones enough not to purchase certain editions if I think the publisher's front cover people had a very bad day. Penguin usually does well at this sort of thing and they have a nice paperback of Llewellyn's novel with a green, hilly, meadowy Welsh scene on the front - at least, it looks like the Wales I've enjoyed on two separate trips. (And I've yet to see it rain in Wales though the flaming green tells me it does.) If you haven't got a copy of the book and want one you might try looking that edition up on Amazon or in a brick and mortar store. It's a very nice copy to read and have hanging around your house on tables and couches and kitchen counters or by the bed.

Richard has written other books you might want to look into. He wrote a sequel to this called Green, Green My Valley Now. And his second book (How Green being his first) may be the one you've heard mentioned in certain company – None But the Lonely Heart.

He passed beyond us in 1983.

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