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Heartland: Stories of Snowdonia, The

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Manylion a Disgrifiad y Llyfr | Book Details & Description

  • Publication May 2005
  • Edited by Dewi Roberts 
  • Format: Paperback, 183x124 mm, 192 pages

A diverse collection of short stories written by authors from north-west Wales comprising 16 stories reflecting life in rural Wales during the 20th century, exactly half of them written originally in English while the other eight are translations, with short biographical notes about each author.

Gwales Review

Jim Perrin provides an excellent introduction, ‘The Square Mile’, to this compact collection of short stories from the distinctive region of north-west Wales: ‘The short story in Welsh and Anglo-Welsh literature is the literary equivalent, the celebratory form, for the famous construct of D.J. Williams, dyn ei filltir sgwâr (a man of his own square mile). . . it is the literary expression of a society on the cusp . . .’

The stories in this collection are a striking reflection of a changing local society, and of its writers’ preoccupations and response to those changes: a Liverpool woman inherits a cottage in Gwynedd; a minister of religion prepares to go to prison on a matter of principle; a Reverend questioning his own roots mediates in a household where a wife is abandoning her husband and home of forty years to go and live in Spain; a woman returns from London to her dead grandfather’s house to have his past re-written by The Woman next door.

Contributions from both from Welsh-language writers in translation and Welsh writers in English have been carefully selected by the editor, including Kate Roberts, Siân James, Emyr Humphreys and Angharad Price. The variety of stories have also been well chosen for the different ways in which they evoke the region; some make explicit reference to their locale and in others the place is strongly felt if not directly named.

The importance of place and the natural world as a metaphor for complex human relationships is felt throughout: Brenda Chamberlain’s through the troubled waters of her alter ego where ‘her mind had too much freedom in these gulfs’, making her way back to her sick husband by boat, alone through the night mist to Ynys Enlli; the evocative descriptions of light reflected on the sea and the bodies of Robert Llywelyn’s lovers; the charming image of the garden and the Welsh kitchen in Kate Roberts’s ‘A Summer Day’; and the sensual description of the seal cave where John Sam Jones’s young men make love.

As editor Dewi Roberts points out in his foreword, it is W.J. Gruffydd’s story, ‘Dripping Leaves’, which captures most succinctly the overriding theme of the collection. A middle-aged man returns to the square mile of his youth reflecting on the people who ‘lived in a small circle, seeing only small things…and yet they had something in their lives that he, for all his success and learning, did not have, something he had not found in all his wanderings over five continents.’

These words (written at a time when the term globalization was probably not in use) reflect the strange paradox we find ourselves in today, in a society where, as Jim Perrin notes, ‘technology has both shrunk our world and enlarged it far beyond a graspable human scale in the same process.’ He goes on to say that the short story in Welsh and Anglo-Welsh literature plays a vital role in mediating ‘the resulting confusion’. This is something that almost all of these stories explore and prove: that in such a challenging world, the local and the personal have the power to transcend again and again, in the hands of an accomplished writer.

Jane MacNamee