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How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

How Green Was My Valley (1939)

by Richard Llewellyn

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Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
This coming-of-age novel narrated by Huw Morgan, youngest son of a family of Welsh miners, paints of picture of Wales in the age of industrialization. The mines, now owned by outsiders who care more about profit than about the lives and welfare of their employees or about the integrity of the land, become less attractive, particularly when strikes yield little or no concessions by those in charge. Most of Huw's siblings move off during the course of the book. One brother dies, and Huw, although attracted to his widow, cannot wed her because of marriage laws. The book tells the story of Huw's education and of his first love as well. The book ends on a sad note. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Ralph Cosham. ( )
  thornton37814 | Feb 4, 2019 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Apr 2009):
- This was a solidly good story of the incredibly hard and bleak conditions of a nasty coal mining community in Wales at the turn of the 20th century. His intimate telling of family and home tells me this author grew up in a similar environment.
- Watching the movie by the same name helped paint a deeper picture, but cuts out much of the context.
- Some of the relationships are intriguing, such as between Huw Morgan and his (eventually) widowed sister-in-law, as well as the push and pull between his older brothers and father... This story strikes me as an anthem to the vulgar march of industrialization and its degradation of both human communities and nature. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Sep 3, 2018 |

The book is much much better than the film. The characterisation of the Morgan siblings is much better; the politics makes a lot more sense; the change in the economics of mining over the decades of the story is well conveyed; the spoil tip, ever increasing in size, hangs over the village as an ominous threat (this in a book written thirty years before Aberfan); eveyone actually sounds Welsh. It is an effective portrayal of the violent, oppressive society where an unmarried mother is outcast while the father of her child gets sympathy (and even attending a theatrical performance can lead to disgrace). In one particularly chilling chapter, a young girl is murdered and the killer is quickly identified and lynched by the villagers. Llewellyn built a myth about himself from the book that may not have been entirely true, but considered as a Bildungsroman conveying a fictional time and place, I think it is a great book. ( )
  nwhyte | Mar 25, 2018 |
HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, first published in 1939, deserves a comeback. It is a wonderful novel that is almost forgotten nowadays as readers try to keep up with all the novels currently being published.

This book came to the United States in 1940 and won the National Book Award for favorite novel that year. The 1941 edition was in my parents’ bookcase for many years before I finally picked it up to read. Before long, I was asking myself, what took me so long, because it could be the best classic I ever read.

The story, narrated by Huw Morgan, is about years of his family’s life in a Welsh mining community during the reign of Queen Victoria. As an older man, he has finally decided to leave and is reminiscing. If all coming-of-age tales were this mesmerizing and this touching, I wouldn’t avoid them as I do.

Particularly attractive is the English the narrator and other characters use. While the reader is to understand that they are really speaking Welsh, their sentence structure is distinguished from English English. I loved the sound of it the way I love the sound of a Tana French novel.

Although Richard Llewellyn’s descriptions of the valley may seem wordy, the reader should understand the necessity of emphasizing its beauty and how mining operations were destroying it. This destruction is the reason Huw is leaving. ( )
  techeditor | Mar 24, 2018 |
This review contains spoilers.


This is the story of Huw Morgan, the youngest boy in the Morgan family, who make their living from the coal mines of south Wales. It is a highly sentimental story, and you can practically hear the Welsh choirs singing as you read each page. The narration lilts melodically, with a tone that makes this reader at least more forgiving of the more overly descriptive bits (with the exception of the bits involving Huw’s first sexual experience — there are some things I do not need to know about my narrators, and their sex lives are at the top of that list).

Without knowing much about the plot, about halfway through I began to be consumed with a sense of suffocating dread on the characters’ behalf. Dare I read on to find out what happens? I did, staying up late to finish it, and cried myself to sleep a little bit.

This book is perhaps romantic in its presentation of a now-lost way of life, but if you don’t mind that sort of thing, you might like this book. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Dec 5, 2017 |
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To my father and the land of my fathers
First words
I am going to pack my two shirts with my other socks and my best suit in the little blue cloth my mother used to tie round her hair when she did the house, and I am going from the Valley.
It is very strange to think back like this, although come to think of it, there is no fence or hedge round Time that has gone. You can go back and have what you like if you remember it well enough.
Singing was in my father as sight is in the eye.
Along the river it was, outside the village, and in that day a little paradise, with the river so clear and broadly green, and silver about the rocks, and willows bending to wash, and reeds in plenty for the frogs, and fish for the herons, and quiet for the ducks and little water-hens.
Dear little house that I have lived in, there is happiness you have seen, even before I was born. In you is my life, and all the people I have loved are a part of you, so to go out of you, and leave you, is to leave myself.
Beautiful were the days that are gone, and O, for them to be back. The mountain was green, and proud with a good covering of oak and ash, and washing his feet in a streaming river clear as the eyes of God. The winds came down with the scents of the grass and wild flowers, putting a sweetness to our noses, and taking away so that nobody could tell what beauty had been stolen, only that the winds were old robbers who took something from each grass and flower and gave it back again, and gave a little to each of us, and took it away again.
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Book description
Huw Morgan is about to leave home forever. As a huge slag heap creeps down the menacingly upon his childhood home, Morgan 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 peopole that will live long in the reader's memory.
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The youngest son of a Welsh coal-mining family recalls the tender and tragic experiences of his youth at the turn of the century with his courageous and loving parents and brothers and sisters.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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