Welsh Wednesday Writing – ‘June In The Valley’ – Book & Poetry review.
Welcome to this, the first review/writing post of my new Welsh Wednesday writing series where each Wednesday I hope to be posting book/poetry reviews of Welsh authors, those authors living in or with a strong connection to Wales, or books that simply have an equally strong Welsh theme to them. In addition, I’ll also be posting information about Welsh writing groups, bookshops, and anything to do with Welsh literature whatever the genre be it fiction, history, travel, culture etc.
I’m proud to present here my review of a collection of writing from the Tonypandy Writer’s Group, June In The Valley, a little gem of a book I discovered while searching for Welsh creative writing groups. It’s only available in print format but at only £3.00 it’s an absolute literary bargain … click title for Amazon link.
The Tonypandy Writer’s Group
I discovered this little gem of a book whilst researching Welsh writing groups. Within its seventy pages, there are thirteen contributions of short stories and poetry.from various members of the Tonypandy writing group. Written to commemorate the group’s founder June Bacon, the book opens and touchingly closes with one of her stories, concluding a surprisingly fine collection of writing …
‘Plain Jane’ – a heartwarming ‘twist in the tale’ type story that puts you in mind of the ugly duckling discovering it’s a really a beautiful swan, and with a nice revelation at the end.
‘Where The Heart Is’ – a sort of mid-life crisis that turns into a heart-rending journey of self-discovery, a very powerful piece of writing.
‘A Story For June’ – A clever comic piece of people watching, a smartly dressed gorgeous woman being met at Cardiff station by … well, you’ll have to read it to find out …
‘The Bedroom’ – A short but moving tale of dying contentedly and how a brother and sister look back on and examine their own lives while dealing with their mother’s death, each in their own but very different ways.
‘My Hero – The Lamplighter’ – a short gentle poem quite literally almost ‘illuminating’ a bygone era, when a new invention was to change people’s lives. A youngster remembers such a time and how they watched in wonderment and a man making the streets safe for people, conjuring up images of dark Victorian nights.
‘The Sacrifice’ – Another ‘twist in the tale type story, this time with a bittersweet ending; a brutal snapshot of life in New York City, an incident that any of us could be witness to, compelling the reader to consider what they might do themselves in similar circumstances. Intertwined with the main story, we learn of a child’s confusion about the Sunday school version of god and the bible the literal reality of the Old Testament stories along with other memories that an unfolding drama conjures up in the child’s now adult’s mind.
‘The Curtains Are Closed’ – A prose style poem, simple and elegant, about a close-knit community showing their concern and respect when learning of the loss of one of their own.
‘Rhondda Past’ – a wistful trip down memory lane as an elderly resident of the Rhondda valley looks back to a time when it was a traditional mining community, and how things have changed since then, and not always for the better. Amid those changes are plans to close some of the writer’s beloved local libraries and it’s the proposed closures that bring back so many childhood memories.
‘Kindly’ – one of those stories that defy description, that you have to read for yourself to understand …
‘The Vicar’s Wife’ – A truly bittersweet story of a wife jolted into doing something about her life and appearance, of wanting something from a life and marriage that has lost its magic.
‘The Mirror’ – Another trip down memory lane, this time a wistful poetic one as a middle-aged woman reflects on what the passing years have done to her once youthful body and looks, though ever mindful that like so many of us, inside she’s still the youth she once was …
‘Song Of My People’ – A poignant poem that takes the reader through the generations from great-grandfather down to father, and ultimately the son telling the tale of those gone before, determined to remember; the eager anticipation of a youngsters life ahead through to the realities of a miner’s life that bears much in common with the slaves of ancient Egypt, the realisation that men’s lives mean less than the profit that can be obtained from their labour and the further cold political reality that the way of life of entire communities can be discarded to make way for easier profit elsewhere.
‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ – A spooky little story, shorter than most yet beautifully simple yet and everything a story of this type should be. I won’t say more as to do so would almost certainly give too much away. A super must-read for fans of the paranormal …
‘Till Death’ – A touch of comic gallows humour in this short but sweet prose style poem, again too short to say too much without spoiling it but suffice to say, absolutely loved it!
‘The Box’ – As sentimental and beautiful a story you could hope read of a man’s remembrance of past happiness, again a short one but equally, just the perfect length it needs to be for the desired effect.
‘Breathtaking’ – The perfect ‘twist in the tale’ short story, ‘ though given its short length it’s really more a flash fiction story, leading the reader in one direction only to throw them off course with all the force of a suddenly discovering you’ve had the map upside down the whole time and you’re in totally the wrong valley, another little gem and the perfect way to round off this excellent collection.
As well as appealing to residents of South Wales, I think anyone who lives in or appreciates growing up in a village or the countryside will find much to enjoy and identify with this in this lovely collection of short stories and poetry, or indeed just about anyone who simply enjoys thoroughly well crafted and entertaining creative writing.
The Tonypandy Writer’s Group meets every other Wednesday at:
Tonypandy Library, 21 De Winton St, Tonypandy CF40 2RA
* And in the words of the group itself, if you would like to join just call in and inquire at the desk. In the spirit of June (the late founder of the group) you will be guaranteed a warm welcome and a cup of coffee courtesy of Debie and the staff …