Llewellyn, Richard. How Green Was My Valley. New York: RosettaBooks LLC, 2013.
Reason read: December is the best time to visit Patagonia. Not so sure about Wales. Which leads me to my confessional: Patagonia is featured in the sequels (Up in the Singing Mountains and Down Where the Moon Was Small), but NOT in How Green Was My Valley. So, I’m sorta reading this one for the wrong reason…which means I’ll be reading the sequels for the wrong reasons as well. Regardless of how I got to this book, on with the review:
Richard Llewellyn has an amazing voice. There were so many passages I wanted to quote because they were all just so beautifully written. How Green Was My Valley is told from the first person perspective of Huw Morgan, looking back on his childhood in a small mining town in Wales. Huw comes from a large family of his parents, five brothers and three sisters. They live in an isolated valley in a community governed by the ways of God and the land. As Huw grows older and heads off to school he learns about the uglier side of growing up, like being bullied for being the new kid. After the first day of school Huw’s father and brothers teach him how to fight. [As an aside: this surprised me. Growing up with five older brothers, surely Huw would encounter a scuffle or two? It seems so unlikely that the siblings would never fight among themselves.] But, it was the harder lessons Huw learned that were more difficult to swallow: the poverty and starvation during the leaner months, what happens when desire gets out of hand and leads to rape and murder, and the death of a family member.
There were many, many lines I liked, but I’ll share just a few: “There is a funny thing in you when you know trouble is being made and waiting for you, in a little time to come” (p 211), and “Pain is a good cleanser of the mind and therefore of the sight” (p 341),
As an aside, the Welsh way of speaking reminded me of Yoda. Guess it’s all the Star Wars brewhaha going on right now.
Author fact: Llewellyn’s full name is Richard Dafydd Vivian Llewellyn Lloyd. Phew. One of his many occupations was coal miner.
Book trivia: How Green Was My Valley won the National Book Award and was made into a movie.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in two different chapters, “Patagonia” (p 174) and “Wales Welcomes You” (p 248).