Touchstone Books/literary fiction
Release Date: 1939
How Green Was My Valley is Richard Llewellyn’s bestselling — and timeless — classic and the basis of a beloved film. As Huw Morgan is about to leave home forever, he reminisces about the golden days of his youth when South Wales still prospered, when coal dust had not yet blackened the valley. Drawn simply and lovingly, with a crisp Welsh humor, Llewellyn’s characters fight, love, laugh and cry, creating an indelible portrait of a people.
As I am currently finalizing details for a trip to Wales, I was very pleased to see How Green Was My Valley pop up as a Main Street Book Club selection. What better way to get in the mood for Wales than to bury myself in Llewellyn’s vivid descriptions of the countryside and the cadence of Welsh spoken English?
The narrative is just delicious. There is really no other way to describe it– you can feel and taste the words as they roll across your mind. That said, there might be just a bit too much. I understand the need to express the rhythm of daily life, but I feel like that could have been done without quite so much repetition.
Huw’s family is large and the Welsh names are onerous, so I often found myself backing up to re-read a passage and check that I was picturing the correct person. Coupled with the dialect, it made for a slow, but wholly enjoyable, read.
Although the book features miners in South Wales, the story is universal and perhaps a bit forward thinking. Published in 1939, Llewellyn makes frequent mention of the environmental damage done by the mining operations and society at large. His melancholy take on diminishing nature speaks loud and clear in a day and age where each day finds another field dotted with housing tracts or paved over to create a parking lot. He may have only intended it to be a story about a young boy growing old, but it is much more.
My verdict: Read it. This is a beautiful story and well worth your time, even if it could stand to shed a few pounds. Do yourself a favor and flip to the back of the book for a list of pronunciations before you begin to read.
**If you came hear from Twitter, the phrase “Mwynhau eich dydd!” means “Enjoy your day!”**