When traveling I usually take a book on the plane based on where I will be traveling. The Count of Monte Cristo was perfect for the year we visited the South of France. Italian mysteries based in the particular city to be visited (Donna Leon for Venice, Iain Pears for Florence) are wonderfully discovered on the website ‘italian-mysteries. com’. You can find the who, where and what there. England provides all kinds of choices from Agatha Christy and Conan Doyle to Shakespeare, the Romantic poets, to the moderns like Virginia Woolf (Oh, did I mention Jane Austen?). But, Wales presented a challenge. Before leaving home I read the poetry of the favorite son, Dylan Thomas.
Wales is a proud country with an independent spirit and a strong identity distinct from England. I met some Welsh people and wanted to know more, wanted to feel that difference. I wasn’t until the last day in Wales that I found a truly Welsh book. I was in the bookshop of the Cardiff Art Museum. The museum is a wonderful place filled with, among other things, Impressionist art. A lovely Renoir I had never seen before! In the late 19th and early 20th century Wales industrialists grew rich shipping mined raw materials around the Empire. There was money being made and art being bought.
But, back to the bookshop where I discovered “Welsh Women’s Classics”series. This is an imprint. previously called the Honno Classics series, that publishes out-of-print books in English by women writers from Wales. I picked up Hilda Vaughan’s “The Soldier and the Gentlewoman.” It is a beautifully written book from the 1930’s describing life in a rural community just after the First World War. The tension is built around a woman of the land who has been cheated out of her home by an entail (still a factor in women’s lives well into the 20th century!) and a weak, wounded war veteran who assumes ownership in complete ignorance of the traditions.The use of language, the novel’s structure are wonderful to read.
Unexpected discoveries are the joy of travel!