Twelve of the best books set in Wales

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! In honour of St David's Day we've put together a list of some of our favourite books set in or inspired byCymru.

28/02/2017
2 minutes to read

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! To mark St David's Day on 1st March we've put together a list of some of our favourite books set in or inspired by Cymru.

The Mabinogion

by Sioned Davies (translator)

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One of literature's greatest epics, the eleven medieval Welsh tales that make up The Mabinogion are some of the earliest prose literature of Britain.

These stories, compiled in the 12th–13th century from earlier oral traditions, interweave Celtic mythology and Arthurian romance . The myths in The Mabinogion offer drama, philosophy, romance, tragedy, fantasy and humour; refined through long development by skilled performers.  

How Green Was My Valley

by Richard Llewellyn

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Growing up in a mining community in rural South Wales, Huw Morgan is taught many harsh lessons - at the kitchen table, at Chapel and around the pit-head. Looking back on the hardships of his early life, where difficult days are faced with courage but the valleys swell with the sound of Welsh voices, it becomes clear that there is nowhere so green as the landscape of his own memory.

Richard Dafydd Vivian Llewellyn Lloyd, better known by his pen name Richard Llewellyn, claimed to have been born in St David's, Pembrokeshire; after his death he was discovered to have been born of Welsh parents in Middlesex.

The Awakening

by Kate Roberts

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Kate Roberts was the dominant figure of Welsh-language literature in the twentieth century.

The happy family life of Lora Ffennig is shattered when her husband abruptly and unexpectedly leaves her for a colleague. The world she has taken for granted is suddenly unfamiliar, and Lora must find a new compass to guide her and her children. Set in a tight-knit Welsh-speaking community at a time when separation, adultery and divorce carried huge social stigma, The Awakening is a novel full of insight into human character and changing social mores.

Under Milk Wood

by Dylan Thomas

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Dylan Thomas's classic radio play is an emotive and hilarious account of a spring day in the fictional Welsh seaside village of Llareggub.

We learn of the inhabitants' dreams and desires, their loves and regrets. It is a unique and touching depiction of a village that has 'fallen head over bells in love'. The First Voice narration reveals the ordinary world of daily happenings and events, while the Second Voice conveys the intimate, innermost thoughts of the fascinating folk of Llareggub.

The Hiding Place

by Trezza Azzopardi

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Dolores is the youngest of six daughters, growing up in the 1960s in Cardiff's poverty stricken Tiger Bay. We see this strange underworld through her eyes: Tiger Bay is a place of gaming rooms and cafes, of crumbling houses and burning secrets, and for Dolores and her sisters, their home is a dangerous place, filled equally by fear and love.

Thirty years later, the estranged sisters return to Tiger Bay for their mother's funeral. It is a time of consolation, of memories and nightmares, and a chance for Dolores to understand the tragedy that has shaped her existence. 

The Picador Classic edition, including an introduction from an introduction by D J Taylor, is out now. 

Resistance

by Owen Sheers

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Resistance opens in 1944, as the women of a small Welsh farming community wake one morning to find that their husbands have gone. Soon after that a German patrol arrives in their valley.

Poet and playwright, Owen Sheers’ debut novel is a beautifully imagined and powerfully moving story of love and loss.

Fall of Giants

Book cover for 9780330460552

Born in Cardiff, Follett was a reporter at the South Wales Echo and said his love of literature was sparked by visits to the Cowbridge Road Library in Cardiff, which he joined when he was seven.

His 2012 epic Fall of Giants, follows five families through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for votes for women and features a coal mining family based in part on his grandfather’s experience of working in the pits from the age of thirteen.

The Dig

by Cynan Jones

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Deep in rural Wales, a farmer is struggling through lambing season when he becomes aware that his land is being stalked by a badger-baiter who brings with him the stark threat of violence. Built of the interlocking fates of these two solitary men.

A story of isolation and loss, The Dig is a meditation on the casual violence of ordinary men from an author who has been compared to John Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy.

Submarine

by Joe Dunthorne

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Meet Oliver Tate, 15. Convinced that his father is depressed and his mother is having an affair with her capoeira teacher, ‘a hippy-looking twonk’. He embarks on a hilariously misguided campaign to bring the family back together.

Meanwhile, he is also trying to lose his virginity - before he turns sixteeen - to his pyromaniac girlfriend Jordana.

Carrie's War

by Nina Bawden

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It is the Second World War and Carrie and Nick are evacuated from London to a small town in Wales, where they are placed with strict Mr Evans and his timid mouse of a sister. Then one day Carrie does a terrible thing - the worst thing she ever did in her life.

Bawden used her own childhood experiences to write Carrie's War, in fact it is set in the mining valley in Wales where she lived as an evacuee in wartime.

 
Poetry

In Parenthesis

by David Jones

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In 1914 David Jones went to war with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, where he fought in the battles of the Somme and Ypres. His long poem 'In Parenthesis', described by T. S. Eliot as ‘a work of genius’, is a detailed and moving evocation of an ordinary soldier’s experience of the trenches and sees Jones creating a Celtic epic of ‘the war to end all wars’.

Jones was more profoundly influenced throughout his life by the landscape, language and myths of Wales. An extraordinary and multi-talented man, he occupies a unique place in twentieth-century British art, and is often called the greatest painter-poet since William Blake.

Selected Poems

by Gillian Clarke

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Former National Poet of Wales, Clarke is one of the best-known names in UK poetry today, as well as one of the most popular poets on the school curriculum.

Over the past four decades her work has examined nature, womanhood, art, music, Welsh history – and always with the lyric and imagistic precision by which her poetry is instantly recognisable. Perhaps her greatest inspiration is the Welsh landscape and all the human stories that it hosts: as UK Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has said, 'Gillian Clarke's outer and inner landscapes are the sources from which her poetry draws its strengths'.