“I just read some great books on vacation.”
Those are words I love to hear, because then I am in for the treat of discovering new books to read books, books to be on my to-read list. I just read some great books on vacation, so get your pens out — time to add them to your list.
A Welsh friend gave me Rape of the Fair Country by Alexander Cordell. Cordell himself wasn’t Welsh; he was born in Ceylon in 1914 to English parents. But after being injured during World War Two, he was sent to Wales to recuperate and he promptly fell in love with the people, the language, and the history of this small but vital slice of the British Isles. He wrote Rape of the Fair Country in the 1950s and it met with huge success. It is a novel of historical fiction recounting the uprisings in Wales in mid 1800s, in which Welsh miners protested the greed of the iron mine owners, the acquiescence of the Church in upholding the owners’ vicious grip on the mining community, and the collaboration of the English government in keeping miners and their families living and working like slaves, with no chance of bettering their lives, no protection in the harsh working conditions, and no hope that things would be better for their children.
Rape of the Fair Country could be all gloom and violence, horror and dismay, given the working situation of the miners, the hard and dangerous labor of men, women, and children, and the utter repression of gentry and church, government and Queen (young Victoria just installed on the throne). But instead it is a lively, ribald, and thoroughly compelling and robust portrait of the Mortymer family, and all the neighbors, friends, and foes that make up their mining community. Cordell lusciously portrays the Mortymers’ beliefs, rituals, and customs, and their eventual and thoroughly necessary awakening to the power they must exercise in a world seeking so hard to hold them back, and keep them down.
I couldn’t stop reading Rape of the Fair Country: I just loved it, and I have gone ahead and ordered the next two book in the trilogy, to follow the Mortymer family through the years, and I hope to a better place in Wales, and in the world.
For something completely different, next I read The Damage Done, the first in a now on-going mystery series written by Hilary Davidson. It was a great quick read, riveting and rollicking, and I loved the heroine (even when she annoyed me), travel writer Lily Moore whose heroin addicted sister turns up dead in the bathtub and Lily must uncover who, what, and why — or risk replaying the family history of self-destruction over and over again. I look forward to more from Davidson (the latest, The Next One to Fall came out in February) and grateful that I found her in a bookstore in Quebec, as I had never heard of her before. By the way, kudos to Quebec, where I passed so many independent book stores while trekking through the streets.
And finally, my son George handed me the first in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger.
It took me a chapter or two to get into the strange, harsh world of The Dark Tower but once in, I was hooked. King is a good story teller, no doubt about it. I have added the next on the series to my list of must-reads, The Drawing of the Three.
Going on vacation this summer? I recommend Quebec for its bookstores, ice cream, bike paths and the great croissants found at Baguette & Cie on Rue St. Paul. If you read anything great, be sure and let me know.