I had gone to this second hand bookshop on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I was browsing through the books. Actually I was hoping to get some old romances which abound in these shops. Some Georgette Hayer, some Nora Roberts, a bestseller or two, pulp fiction. I did pick up Jackie Collins' Hollywood Husbands, ok, mission accomplished partially. Some more digging and I come across a collected works of Sherlock Holmes, great. And then this book by Richard Llewellyn falls into my hands.
Years ago, sometime in the 80s, Doordarshan (god bless it) used to show award winning (or acclaimed) films on late nights fridays. On one such evening, I was about to snooze off when I saw the start credits rolling for the movie How Green Was My Valley. A few scenes later sleep was far away from my eyes. I watched the movie mesmerised. I had absolutely no idea (as there was no google then) that this was a movie adaptation of an acclaimed book.
As was the movie so was the book. One chapter into it, and I was hooked. Llewellyn recreates life in a mining town in Wales with simplicity and candor. We get to know about a respectable family of Morgans. The father, Gwilym Morgan, the mother Beth and several brothers and sisters of the narrator Huw Morgan. The father is a true patriarch who holds his family together and plays an important role in the community. The mother is, likewise a matriarch who is able to manage her home and hearth well and keep a hospitable table.
The life in this family and the little community is ideal as long as all the members are able to stick to their roles. In such a perfect state, the little village can rival Eden. The local pastor Gruffydd is an able mentor to his folk. Even the owner of the mines, Mr Evans is not too inclined to greed and pays his men good wages. In such a scenario, the valley is beautiful and green despite the mining. The accidents in the mines are fewer, the people less ambitious, more god fearing and happy.
Soon, fissures start appearing in this Eden. Fear of exploitation by the owners bring in the Union which in turn makes the owners more wary. The new owners are greedy and want to dig more without a care for the environment, making the slag heaps rise higher. There are more accidents and women and children are suddenly made vulnerable by the rising deaths. People start leaving the village in search of a better future. The close knit little community crumbles.
This is backdrop in which little Huw grows up, and loves to distraction. He does not want to change this way of life and wants the Eden of his childhood intact.
We can feel the love with which the pretty portrait of a conventional life in a little Wales village is drawn. Like Huw, we want it to remain as it is, quaint and lovely. We want to see his father and brothers marching in home from the colliery covered in soot and rubbing it all off with a bath of hot water. Sitting down to a hearty meal with the pastor and later singing Welsh songs in their hearty voices. We want to see Bronwen, his beloved sister-in-law, happy in her domestic life with Ivor. His sister Angharad peeping out of the window to take a look at Mr. Gruffydd, hoping he would return her passion. Little Huw who finds love of his own when he takes Ceinwen over the hills.
It is a novel of epic proportions. I have found that the Huw Morgan saga continues in 3 more books by the same author. I hope I find these books too somewhere.
The movie - Superlative.
The book - of course more detailed and super-superlative.
Warning - I am devouring books these days.