The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis























The Jeweller by Caryl Lewis

Welsh fiction

Original title – Y Gemydd

Translator – Gwen Davis

Source – review copy

To say I review translated fiction I haven’t reviewed many Welsh novels translated into English so when the chance comes to add another to the list of books I am always happy to review them. Caryl Lewis is a previous winner of the Welsh book of the year and was also translated into English by the same translator that book was two years before this book came out in 2007. She studied at Aberystwyth and Durham University and had worked in public relations before becoming a writer. She writes the welsh scripts for the crime series Hinterland.

Mari was sitting at the lip of the bed, the carrier bag in her lap and her mind light years away. It was evenoing, the night cluds coming in th colour the sky. She couldn’t keep her eyes of that photo of the bicycling girl, which she’d framed and placed on the mantlepiece along with the others.The girl seemed at home there, somehow: among friendly souls Nanw’s screech cut across the room. Mari choose another piece of meat. The monkey snatched it, swallowed most of it whole, squealing and groping between the bars for more. On her way home from work -passing the town square- Mari had seen Dafydd walking hand in hand with a slender, dark haired girl making sure they didn’t see her. Mari had stood there intil the cold settled around her

The loner Mari loves the freedom of a girl on a bike in an old photograph.

There is a cover song on the This mortal coil Album called the Jeweller about a Jeweller polishing with Ashes with the linesThe coins are often very old by the time they reach the jeweller., With his hand and ashes he will try the best he can. He knows that he can only shine them, cannot repair the scratches. Well this is a story of a Jeweller she lives in a lonely cottage by the sea in a welsh Town we are never told the name but there are so many small welsh towns by the sea we don’t need a name Mari shares her house with a cat and a Monkey like all monkeys he loves the little trinkets Around Mari house she has a market stall that she runs but she also loves the stories behind the pieces she gets a lot via her friend Mo that clears house and she has the letter and other pieces from those who had touched the jewels of the years from the house to go with the jewelry. But when the Market is Threatened with closer we find out what makes Mari the loner she is as her past is brought to light. Will she like the perfect gem she is trying to cut be able to gleam and sparkle in a new future and shed the past.

Those jewels were giving Mari a hard time. They were supposed to be healing, but having set them out on her stall after a sleepless night was making her brain fit to burst. She had broughtin all the clothes that were destined for the sale rail, They had been given prority over the jewellery, right at the front of the stabd: the white gloves hand in hand; the pink frock glad again to act the party girl and welcome all comers. Mari piled up the bags on one side of the glass counter and wrote the price on the card.

Her market stall but times are changing and it may close.

This for me ticked so many boxes small village/town life the people Mari learns about all add to this small town but also how it has changed. The turning point which is not just the town with the threat of the Market closing but also Mari in her life herself. Then there are the old lives Mari sees in the jewels she is selling on her stall. There is some wonderful turn of phrases that had kept through the translation like seagulls being compared to litter in the wind. This shows what we leave behind still has echoes of other’s lives but also we mustn’t cling to what holds us back at times. Have you read this or other books by Her ?

The life of Rebecca Jones By Angharad Price

The life of Rebecca Jones by Angharad Price

Welsh fiction

Translator -Lloyd Jones

Angarad Price is a Welsh writer she grew up in the Wales and is a fluent Welsh speaker and professor of Welsh at Bangor university .The life of Rebecca Jones is her second novel it won the Wales book of the year .

When this drop through the door I read it was about a family in a Welsh valley ,my mind was drawn to Bruce Chatwin’s on the black hill ,that book set in the Welsh borders dealt with family and isolation from the outside world and a way of living like Rebecca’s that is very traditional  .But As I read the book ,another book a favourite of recent times for me sprung to mind that was stones in a landslide although set in spain a lot of the context ,subjects and ways of life seemed similar in both books  .This book is the story of a women’s life she is a Welsh women born to a family in the Maesglasau valley in the heart of Welsh speaking Wales where this family has lived for a 1000 years .As I read i  found it hard to believe this book was a translation,as  it read like it was written in english .So back to Rebecca and her family, and isn’t it an odd family because out of her four siblings three of them are blind from a genetic condition .The book follows Rebecca growing up in the valley and her  adult life ,but we also the brothers dealing with their blindness and when you think this was in the early parts of the twentieth century and the family lived in a remote valley but the parents made sure they got to the blind school and they all lived a full  life and work which was a real achievement at the time ,but this family was cultured there were books and talking about books in this families kitchen which I loved it seemed like a world I love to be in .The book is inter sped with photos .I m sure these are prices own family as the family is here Rebecca was here great-aunt ,the lads feature on a BBC  documentary in the 1960’s  I tried to find if this was on you tube but didn’t have any luck .

As a matter of fact , Tynybaich went to television rather than vice versa .In 1964 the journalist John Robert Williams came to interview us for the BBC Heddiw news programme .He’d heard an amazing story about the “three blind brothers ” from Tynybraich and wanted to make a short film

the BBC visited the valley .

Price has remind me how wonderful Welsh writing is at it’s best. but also very different at times from what you may say is the English novels from the capital . This book is short but after I finished it felt like I been through a 900 page novel such is the way she draws you into this families life . If wasn’t for the fact some things from 20th century are mention this story could be from anytime in the last few hundred years .What great shame it is with all the talk in the booker last year of readable books and literary books, well I d say you got one here that combines both and because it wasn’t in english originally it isn’t eligible that is a joke .This is a book that should be next to the like of Chatwin’s on the black hills  and Dylan Thomas under milkwood ,more important than them both it catches the Welsh speaking community of wales ,and reminds us of how we need to save the welsh language for future generations to enjoy and experience .

Have you read this book ?

Do you like welsh fiction ?

white ravens by owen sheers

 This novella is part of a project from poetry Wales to retell the epic Welsh folk tale Mabinogion ,this is the first of eleven stories due over the next couple of years it was publish late last year .

  Owen Sheers was familiar to me from his television appearances on numerous poetry programmes ,he decide to tackle “Brawen,daughter of llyr ” for his novella white ravens .His interpretation moves the story to the second world war and telling the story of Mathew O Connell a Irish man who  came over to england at the start of the war to fight and eventually get injured in  due course which is where the story really starts as he is hand a secret assignment to fetch some new ravens for the tower of london .He has to go to a farm in  deepest Wales ,he arrives a little early for the chicks so stays at the farmer house with a brother and sister and over the course of time falls in love with the sister and heads back to Ireland  after delivering the chicks .where they marry and start a new life but not all goes well to find out more you ll have to read the book .

“can I take a look?” Mathew asked,approaching the table.”just a peek,” ben said  “They’ve only jus’ settled.Don’t want get ’em all worked up again”

scene where Mathew first meets the ravens at the farm

         Sheers writing is poetic and the two main characters are well-rounded and believable .having not read the original its hard to tell if this is a good interpretation of the story .the original is available in  a newish edition from Oxford world classics .many thanks to

bookrabbit for send me this.

   do you like modern retelling of folk tales ?

    do you think poets make great novelists ?

the week in twitter

This is where i put down bits of book news over the past week that has caught my eye

@archipelagobk’s where telling us about Unai Elorriga novel tour in america the Basque writer who’s novel plants don t drink coffee they publish any one who knows me well knows what a fan i am of archipelago there a small non-profit publisher who make beautiful books .

@windmillbooks told us about pocket notebook by mike Thomas a dark comedy about the police ,the book also has a great take on the famous clockwork orange cover from the seventies

@vintagebooks told us about a new edition of  worst journey in the world the book about the ill-fated scott expedition which their classic imprint are bring out soon

@radompr the wonderful Bethan told us about how to live by Sarah Bakewell  a book about de Montaigne the writer

This week i tweeted about –

the patience stone  by Atiq Rahimi -reviewed

white ravens  by   Owen Sheers -review over weekend

fado by Andrzej Stasiuk -review early next week

a pile of archipelago books

March 2023


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