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St. David's Society of Minnesota

United to Celebrate and Explore Welsh Culture

Well-Read Dragon's Book Club

Recent Books

The Long Dry by Cynan Jones

"[A] piercing novella . . . Like Cormac McCarthy, Jones can make the everyday sound fraught and biblical.”—Kirkus, starred review

On a long, hot day, Gareth searches for a missing pregnant cow. A dog must be put down, there are ducks to go in the pond, there are children, and there is Kate, his wife, who may be an uncrossable distance from him. Jones's rural Wales is alive with the necessities of our own animal instincts and most human longing. 

Cynan Jones was born near Aberaeron on the west coast of Wales in 1975. He is the author of five short novels,The Long Dry, Everything I Found on the Beach, Bird, Blood, Snow, The Dig and The Cove.  From Amazon.com

Short Stories by Mary-Ann Constantine

Mary-Ann Constantine works on Romantic-era Welsh literature in both Welsh and English. She took her first degree in English Literature at Clare College, Cambridge (1988–91), and stayed on to do a PhD in Breton folklore. She moved to Aberystwyth in 1995 and held a succession of Research Fellowships in the Welsh Department, University of Aberystwyth. During this period she taught various topics in Welsh and Celtic Studies, and continued her work on the ballad tradition in Brittany. Mary-Ann’s work is concerned with the relations between and mutual influence of the different cultures and languages of Britain (and to some extent beyond) in the late-C18th and early-C19th centuries.  Mary-Ann has published two collections of short stories: The Breathing (Planet, 2008) and All the Souls (Seren, 2013). (Excerpted from the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies website.)

A Childhood in a Welsh Mining Valley by Vivian Jones

About the author: Vivian Jones was born in the small village of Garnant in the Amman Valley, the son and grandson of coalminers. He went on to Llanelli Boys Grammar School, Bangor University and Bala-Bangor Theological College, becoming a Minister in several Congregationalist churches in Wales. He later studied in the USA and served as Senior Minister in Minneapolis, Minnesota for 15 years, being awarded an honorary Doctorate of Divinity before retiring and moving back to Wales.

About the book: Vivian Jones recounts with great warmth his childhood in a working class family within the community of a small mining village in the Welsh Valleys in the 1930s, and considers what influence growing up in that environment has had on the man he is today. From the all-pervading influence of chapel culture to local people's delight in the cinema, the detail of this time, place and culture is brought vividly back to life through a wealth of lively anecdotes about the Amman Valley, his village (Garnant), local characters, community initiatives, school, the mining industry, growing up without much money, and much, much more. (from Amazon.co.uk)

Everything I Found on the Beach, by Cynan Jones                                        

"Disenfranchised men desperate to improve their lot populate this lyrical novel by Jones. Adopting the diptychlike structure he used in his previous novel, The Dig, Jones presents two central characters with divergent backgrounds but a shared sense of desperation. Grzegorz is a Polish migrant worker trying to make a better life for his wife and two sons in their adopted Wales; Hold is a Welsh fisherman looking after the family of his deceased best friend. “He wanted very much to have... the sense that he had done something complete, and turned someone’s life around,” Hold thinks at one point, echoing Grzegorz’s aspirations...In places, Jones’s recriminations against modern life—slaughterhouses, chain stores, consumer culture—become repetitive. But with this thriller-like plot in place, Jones is free to exercise his considerable gifts as a stylist, and breathtaking descriptions of landscape and animal life abound. Describing a beach, Jones writes, “Here, the bluish rock was igneous and looked liquefied, twisted under geology’s great pain.”   From Publishers Weekly

Land of My Neighbours, by Barry Pilton 

In light of meeting on April Fool’s Day, the group has chosen to read a light-hearted title, in itself a play on the words of the Welsh National Anthem: Land of My Fathers. About the book, the Independent on Sunday wrote: “A beguiling, tragic-comic tale of conservation, covetousness and croquet. Pilton’s prose is charmingly frictionless, funny and oddly elegant.”

Presenting Saunders Lewis

  The University of Wales Press book cover blurb: “Featuring an introduction by David Jones and edited by Alun R. Jones and Gwyn Thomas, this book explores the life and work of a man often called the greatest Welshman of our time. The book looks in detail at his personal history with contributions by D. J. Williams, Emwyr Humphreys and Gareth Miles. It also looks at a number of aspects of his career.”  Background readings:  Dictionary of Welsh Biography, on civil disobedience, on the Welsh language, and as politician.                                                                            

The Bank Manager and the Holy Grail: Travelers to the Wilder Reaches of Wales, by Byron Rogers                          

imagesByron Rogers’ work is a collection of essays and portraits of remarkable and completely mad Welshmen. Around a world much given to standardization, Rogers (who is Welsh) orbits in an unpredictable, eccentric fashion. Rogers is the laureate of the quietly uncanny, the genteelly bizarre, the politely weird. The title? For a while the Holy Grail was deposited in a vault in the Aberystwyth branch of Lloyd’s Bank. Rogers has more to tell, of course.  
The Guardian Review: “Strange Days in Wales.”  Video Review by Julian Birket (emeritus BBC broadcaster).

 

the-owl-service-by-alan-garner  The Owl Service, by Alan Garner

This is a modern interpretation of the story of Blodeuwedd, from The Mabinogion, the earliest prose literature in Wales. The Owl Service is a fabulous, multi-layered book of mystery and suspense, but it’s also a contemporary musing on love, class structure and power.

 

9781783160631

Wales on the Western Front, by John Richards

Two months after being posted to France in 1917, Edward Thomas wrote: “I already know enough to confirm my old opinion that the papers tell no truth at all about what war is and what soldier are…” This anthology provides an impression of what it meant to be a soldier on the Western front in the First World War and, above all, what it meant to be a Welsh soldier.

 

Contact!: A Book of Encounters, by Jan Morris

Jan Morris

One review says of this book, “A delightful and hilarious companion for anyone taking a trip and an indispensable work for any fan of Jan Morris. Reflecting back on over half a century, Morris has decided to write, not about the destinations, but about the people she has encountered. Recalling human encounters on six continents, she paints a vibrant, funny, and moving picture of humanity.”

And the Guardian reports, “Here are vivid glimpses of people encountered by Jan Morris over “a lifetime of travel and literature”. Brief and elegant vignettes, they are written with sharp humour and pinpoint observation – meet the “fine scoundrel”, for example, his face “rather Dickensian in concept”. There is a lovely rhythm to the prose: “On the edge of a swamp in Louisiana an old Negro woman in a floppy straw hat was fishing in the oozy water with a home-cut rod.” Typically no date is given, time acknowledged by a floating “one day”, “not so long ago”, or simply by a verb: “I visited”, “I crossed to”, “while searching unsuccessfully for kangaroos in the bush of Mount Ainslie . . .” But place is always of the essence, integral to the encounter whether it is Marylebone High Street, Johannesburg or the Hong Kong ferry. Who else could write – across two pages and with no sense of strain – of conversations in a County Monaghan churchyard and in the mangrove swamps of Fiji, and of a mysterious encounter on a snowfield 19,000ft up in the Himalaya?”