Diolch, Gruntius. Wedi prynu ar Kindle (Amazon US). I’m happy to see some Welsh language books can be bought on Kindle.
Il coming into this discussion late. Is there a book or series a group are all taking on but then also notes from others? Are some doing a series by the same author? (Manon Steffan Ros) I see many by this author available on US kindle & a couple on Audible.
It’s not the sort of book club where members all read the same book and then discuss it. Nothing so organised. We just mention books that we have read. This may or may not encourage others to have a go. The books are at many different levels of difficulty. Most are books that people have enjoyed, some are not. If you have read anything that you think is worth a comment, then please go ahead and say what you thought of it…
Tyllau by Louis Sachar, translated by Ioan Kidd.
Stanley Yelnats is always in the wrong place at the wrong time. The whole family has been under a curse since great-great-grandfather failed to keep his promise to a witch back in the old country. When a pair of trainers lands at Stanley’s feet he picks then up, not realising that they have just been stolen from baseball player Sweetfeet. Stanley gets the blame and is sent to a punishment camp in a desert in Texas where venemous snakes and lizards are all around. The boys in the camp have to spend their days digging holes in the bed of a dried-up lake. Is this just a punishment, or does the sinister Warden have an ulterior motive?
The book is written for young adults and is full of details about the lives the boys lead in the desert. The villains are really nasty. Most of the time we are with Stanley, but there are flashbacks to the story of great-great-grandfather and also to the notorious outlaw “Kissin Kate” Barlow. The book was not written for learners, but I found it quite straighforward and approachable, neither too formal nor in a difficult dialect.
After a couple of weeks of quite heavy going thematically, I quite enjoyed Ac Yna Clywodd Sŵn y Môr by Alun Jones.
Loosely translated from the blurb, “This is one of the most readable novels to be published in Welsh. You could call it a detective novel, a love story, and the story of a community all rolled into one. Yes, there’s a young man accused of raping a young woman, and there’s also a flock of policemen trying to corner a jewellery thief, but we also meet a number of characters who could have grown directly out of the soil of Pen Llŷn”.
As a learner, the first line overstates it a bit in saying it’s the most readable novel ever published. This was written in 1979 and is set in the middle of the twentieth century so the style and dialect are a bit old-fashioned. eg. “Yr oedd” and “maent” instead of “Roedd” and “Mae’n”, and the characters use colloquial terms like “llarpad”, wwhichiI assume means something like “rascal, scoundrel”.
However “Yr oedd” comes up so often you quickly cotton on, and you don’t need to know all the dialect to get the gist of the dialogue. And thematically I thought this was a nice, gentle mid-century crime novel. Ie although bad things happen or are recounted it didn’t pack the emotional wallop or have the bleakness of some of my recent reads. I just wanted to read on to find out what happens.
Definitely not a beginner read, but if you’ve already started reading contemporary adult Welsh fiction then I recommend this to push you a bit linguistically and introduce you to a slightly older style of writing, while still being a really good tale.
Llwch yn yr Haul - Marlyn Samuel
Ever since reading Cicio’r Bwced I’ve been wanting to read another book by the same author and I haven’t been disappointed with this one. I really enjoyed reading this for a few reasons really, first it was full of humour, not laugh out loud funny but a lot of snorting, second it was a great story line, really interesting and kept me keen, and third it was set in Cyprus and I recognised all of the place names from stories of when we were there in '72/'73 (my dad was in the RAF).
Translated from the back cover …
It’s impossible to keep a secret forever - the truth is bound to come out some day. That’s what a family from Anglesey discover during a memorable visit to Cyprus. Under the island’s sweltering sun all the emotions that are boiling under the surface explode, and the week’s shocking events affect each one of their lives.
The same as I wrote for Cicio’r Bwced … This is a grown-up’s book so not an easy read like those aimed at teenagers or learners but I wouldn’t say it was difficult either. Marlyn uses straightforward, simple language that’s very accessible so I wouldn’t think it would be impossible even for beginners and certainly ok for intermediate readers.
Next on the list, Y Dylluan Wen. The film of this is one of the GCSE set texts, and I was amused to see a comment on the cinema thread that it has some quite dark themes. It does, but the GCSE syllabus generally seems designed to discuss the deepest, darkest, nastiest parts of the human psyche, so standard fare really.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It plays with the Blodeuwedd story from the Mabinogi to tell a contemporary tale, which I quite liked but which also left me feeling I was missing stuff or not quite getting references (I guess that’s why it’s a GCSE text! ).
To be fair the bits that most confused me were the very short sections narrated by a white owl who is watching the main character, and addressing us as the reader. However I think they add to the story but aren’t critical for understanding the exact sequence of events.
I found the style quite lyrical in parts, which I really liked. Almost designed to be read aloud, with alliteration and rhythm in the language. That makes it sound difficult but not at all: the bits that struck me as lyrical were very short sentences with fairly simple language and lots of repetition. It’s also written as a series of short scenes, which I think made it fairly readable. Certainly less dense in narrative than some of the stuff I’ve been reading lately.
However I didn’t find the pacing or the ending very satisfying, so overall I’m not sure I’d recommend it. Definitely one for confident readers and maybe one to read in a book group, to help decipher some of the references.
Twll Bach yn y Niwl - Llio Elain Maddocks
This is the first (and I think so far only) novel by this author and I’m really hoping it won’t be the last. I got dragged into this one all too easily, it’s a very appealing mix of addictive story, heavy themes and great humour.
Roughly translated from the back cover …
“I know that it’s been difficult for you stuck at home while I’ve been travelling the world. But I can’t just come home and live in a small house with you in Dolgarwyn, Lowri. I can’t save you from this boring life.”
Lowri’s in a hole. She can’t find work, has to cope with her mum’s sickness, spending every night in the same pub with the same friends, and getting dumped. She soon learns that nobody is going to save her from this hole that’s growing bigger every day.
She has to save herself.
Written for adults, with adult themes, so expect adult vocabulary … whatever that means. Saying that I think it’s written in a very easy style so not above anyone’s range.
Clymau - Various
This is a book of short stories by 14 different authors. Jon Gower came up with the idea I think, each of these stories has a twist in the tail and reflects some aspect of the story before (and sometimes others in the book too).
I have to be honest, I wasn’t a fan. Some of the stories are really good but others not so good, for me anyway. A few even left me looking for another chapter to explain what the heck just happened. I even read the last page of the last story twice and even checked to see if there was a page missing somewhere!
Ah well, at least it’s another book moved from the box under the bed to the bookshelf where all the books I’ve read live.
I have had the same experience with other collections of short stories. I find that full length novels give me a better chance to understand what is going on, and it is less important if there are bits I don’t understand.
This review is thanks to @Cetra who kindly passed on her copy of Celwydd Oll gan Sian Northey. The title translates as “All Lies”.
I am also not a fan of short stories usually but I did quite enjoy these. The premise is that each story is inspired by something true. The inspiration could be something huge like a war, or as trivial as a comment in the notices section of a newspaper. Sian has then written a vignette related to that, perhaps in a different time period, a different place, or just imagining the back story or consequences of it. At the end of each chapter she reveals “The truth”.
Thematically, the stories were often inspired by sad events, but the short story format stopped them being too intense, for me anyway.
The choice of vignettes was really interesting as well - I learned about events I didn’t know about and imagined perspectives I hadn’t thought about before, which is what fiction is about really. It was also really interesting to see where her inspiration came from.
I often find short stories harder to read than novels because by the time you’ve worked out the key vocab and identified what they’re about, it’s over. However I thought the language here was fairly straightforward and of course she provides the context at the end so you can always go and reread once you know the topic.
I’d recommend it to anyone who’s accustomed to reading at Uwch or maybe Canolradd level if you’re happy to be stretched.
I enjoyed reading Gangsters in y Glaw from the Amdani series of books for entry-level Welsh learners and wrote the following book review as an exercise. Hope it’s helpful and apologies for the inevitable errors (updated with corrections 29th August 11pm).
Mwynheais i ddarllen “Gangsters yn y Glaw” gan Pegi Talfyn. Mae’n un o’r cyfres Amandani llyfrau i lefel Mynediad. Mae’r stori a’r cymeriadau yn ddiddorol a doniol iawn. Dyn ni’n dilyn y detectif preifat, Elsa Bowen, sydd yn ffeindio mas pam mae’r cwsmeriaid rhyfedd yn ymweld a’r siop llyfrau i brynu llyfrau fel Calon Lân. Sut gallu Elsa stopio’r gansters ac yn arbed y siop lyfrau? Mae bob tudalen yn cael rhestri o eirfa anodd.
Dw i’n darllen “Blacmêl” nawr, hefyd gan Pegin Talfyn, ac hefyd am Elsa Bowen. Mae’r llyfr 'ma yn hawdd iawn. Mae’n llyfr cyntaf perffaith. Dylen dysgwyr darllen “Gangsters yn y Glaw” ar ol “Blacmêl”.
Dw i’n darllen llyfr arall hefyd, “O Gaerfyrddin i Go Compare”. Mae’n anoddach ond yn ddiddorol iawn. Mae’r llyfr 'ma yn am y canwr opera, Wynne Evans, yn y hysbysebion Go Compare. Dw i’n meddwl bod y llyfr 'ma yn iawn i ddysgwyr Mynediad a Sylfaen, ond yn anodd fel llyfr cyntaf.
And another review courtesy of @Cetra! Thank you!
Lwyth by Bethan Gwanas.
This is aimed at 11-14 year olds so was a nice easy read. Fantasy is my favourite genre so I really enjoyed the opportunity read some in Welsh. I’d say it’s definitely aimed at the younger end of the scale, so not a very complex story and the language was pretty straightforward.
If you happy reading at Canolradd level why not give it a go? There will be vocab to learn about swords and spears, but all very guessable if you’ve ever watched any fantasy on TV.
I am reading “Fel Aderyn” by Manon Steffan Ros. She is one of my favourite authors and this was her first book for adults.
It is the story of six generations of mothers and daughters who lived in Tywyn, told in brief interludes swapping between times and protagonists in a way that I found rather confusing at first. Luckily a family tree is provided at the front, and I made frequent use of it to check what was going on. These women have plenty of trouble. Nearing the end, I am hoping that the latest generation will have a better time, and I am wondering whether family secrets will be revealed, or whether they will go to the grave with the people who know them.
I am enjoying this book and understanding enough of it without going to the dictionary. I find the language quite straighforward, not too formal and not full of difficult dialect. I would recommend it for anyone who is venturing beyond books written for learners.
I was up much too late last night reading “Fel Aderyn”. Oh my, what a book! The complexity that bothered me at first proved to be essential. The story would not have been anything like as powerful if told chronologically.
I had forgotten that this book had already been reviewed by @gruntius back in January. Sorry! I would have mentioned it before if I had remembered. I agree that the chapters about the abusive marriage are difficult to read, but they are all too true. The incident is uncomfortably similar to the account of a coroner’s inquest that my daughter found when researching a family tree for her in-laws. She can never, never, tell them what she found because it is too painful and close to home. Some family secrets are perhaps better kept secret. Family History is my hobby, but you have to be careful of what you might find. Mina’s daughter had better take up other interests when she gets older and leave the family alone. As for DNA testing… I didn’t mind the loose ends in the book. Life is full of loose ends and I thought that they added to the poignancy. I am still reeling. I did not expect the last secret, through it was in plain sight all the time if I had looked.
Tu ôl i’r Awyr - Megan Angharad Hunter
On the front cover it says … “Y nofel orau, fwyaf pwerus i mi ei darllen ers blynyddoedd. Mae’n ysgytwol” - Manon Steffan Ros.
And on the back (roughly translated) … “It’s more than a novel - it’s a completely new literary experience and it fills your head. Raw, warm, full of hard blows and soft touches, every page is an emotional experience.” - Manon Steffan Ros.
“Anest and Deian are in the 6th form when they meet, and both of their worlds change for ever.”
“A funny and heartbreaking novel that offers a shocking glance at young adult lives that hasn’t been seen in print in Welsh before.”
I think I’ll be feeling the effects of this book for some time to come. All the cliches are true for this one, a real page turner, I couldn’t put it down, etc, etc. I would rate this a solid 10, I’m not surprised it won Welsh Fictional Book of the Year this year, it’s incredible.
A surprisingly easy book to read as far as the language is concerned, but it does come with a warning on the cover that the content may cause distress to some readers.
Diffodd y Sêr by Haf Llewelyn
I had been procrastinating over reading this, because it tells the story the famous poet Hedd Wyn, and I knew his fate already. From the cover, I thought it might dwell on his experiences in the ditches, which was never going to be cheery reading.
However the book is actually told from the perspective of his thirteen year old sister, Anni, so was much easier to read emotionally than I was expecting. The war is the background to everything, but at the start she actually knows very little about it, probably less than we do now, and of course she is preoccupied by other topics, such as her friendships. All in all, I found it about as gentle as can be given the topic. I studied the English war poets for GCSE and this was a lot less brutal than that!
The book is fairly short at 120 pages, and I thought the language was pretty clear so it should be fairly accessible to someone who’s ready to move off books for learners. If you’ve read Efa, for example, you could read this.
Milionêrs - Marlyn Samuel
This book is now out of print and it took me a while to find what I really think might have been the last brand new copy of it available anywhere … with the help of Marlyn herself and a combined effort from several bookshops around Wales.
This one is about Wendi, from Ynys Môn, who is like so many of us, scraping a living from day to day, waiting for the next payday to arrive. Then she wins £9.1m on the lottery and her and her family’s lives change … not all for the better.
Rough translation of the back cover blurb …
"Wow! Winning the Lottery. There’s an experience every one of us wishes to have. When a busy wife, mam and gran wins £9.1 million it appears that her problems are over. But, very soon, Wendi discovers that life isn’t necessarily all rosy despite her bank account being remarkably healthy.
The same as I wrote for Cicio’r Bwced and Llwch yn yr Haul … This is a grown-up’s book so not an easy read like those aimed at teenagers or learners but I wouldn’t say it was difficult either. Marlyn uses straightforward, simple language that’s very accessible so I wouldn’t think it would be impossible even for beginners and certainly ok for intermediate readers.
Peter Moore: Y Gwaethaf o’r Gwaethaf - Dyfed Edwards
Another book in the Stori Sydyn series, this time the telling of two of the most famous violent crime cases in Wales.
First, Peter Moore, who has been described as one of the most dangerous people to set foot in North Wales. He attacked tens of men between the 70s and the 90s, killing 4 of them.
Second is the case of Lynette White, a sex worker from Cardiff, who was murdered back in 1988. This became famous more for being one of the worst examples of maladministration of justice ever in the UK.
Given the nature of this book it won’t be to everyone’s taste but I found it really quite interesting. If true life crime is your thing then this has to be worth £1.99 of your hard-earned.
Stori Sydyn = suitable for all abilities.
Hi Cetra, after reading your recommendation for Eva I’ve just taken the plunge and order the book. I do love a good page turner. Diolch julie