Monday, 25 February 2013

Review // Cwmardy - Lewis Jones

Published - 1st January 2006
Publisher - Parthian Books
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - The epic industrial novels of the 1930s, Cwmardy and We Live are published together here for the first time. In Cwmardy, Big Jim, collier and ex-Boer War soldier, and his partner Si├ón endure the impact of strikes, riots, and war, while their son Len emerges as a sharp thinker and dynamic political organizer. Len’s tale is taken up in We Live, in which he is influenced by Mary, a teacher, and the Communist Party, which becomes central to his work both underground and in union politics, and to his decision to leave and fight in the Spanish Civil War. Cwmardy and We Live paint a graphic portrait of the casual exploitation, tragedy, and violence as well as the political hope and humanity of South Wales industrial workers from the 1900s to the 1930s.

The synopsis above covers both Cwmardy and We Live, but i'm focusing on the first novel.

Cwmardy is Lewis Jones' first novel and is set in a small Welsh mining village and though he wasn't a professional writer, Cwmardy is wonderfully written and tells a great story that many, including myself, have enjoyed. I read this for my Welsh Lit class and was so pleased to find how much I loved it. Jones' writing was fascinating - with a hybrid of both English and Welsh language.

The working class culture that Jones writes about is an interesting read, especially as this was Jones' own lifestyle. He was a working class, political activist and that definitely shines through brightly in Cwmardy. The role of Len has strong links to Lewis Jones himself and in this light, makes reading even more interesting.

Admittedly, the beginning of the book didn't hold my attention much. It begins with setting the scene in Len's house and dealing with certain tragedies but other than that, there isn't much to read. However, I kept on with it and it did improve. I'm not sure how much someone would enjoy reading Cwmardy for purely entertainment reasons but as an insight into working class Welsh mining families/villages it's fascinating and well worth reading.

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