Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies

The Welsh Girl

Ian's Review:
Read: 15 September 2007
Rank: 87/100

Great work, evocative, and a real culture disconnection. For some reason this book didn't resonate emotionally, even though this is a powerful book. I think this was more to do with my current state of mind than the story.

Rach Review:
Read: 24 September 2007
Rank: 91/100

Twenty-four hours (or something poetic like that) I started this book.. the Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies, my expectations low. The book both winner and loser, a consolation formed part of the Booker Prize Long list for 2007, but failed to make the short list. But still surely this book should compete for worthiness in my eyes before opening its cover, and indeed it had done until my partner in this journey through the long list gave his sanction to another book over this.

My feelings now on completing both are the opposite, both books (the other being On Beauty by Zadie Smith (Booker Short List from 2005)) are brilliantly constructed, and what more could you expect. Both also tell the tales of ordinary people captured and embraced by their circumstance, their nationality, their time and place on this earth. They both ring of the importance of where we come from in our choices and our life.

They are also both emotional books, On Beauty is a surburban mixed black and white family living in white Wellington US, and threads many other deep and intricate characters into the story, picking up and dropping them as life does, which lends it a graceful reality.

The other The Welsh Girl set in the 2nd world war in Wales focuses on one character, and interweaves several different points of view, but two other key characters.

Both are about identity, the crossing of our nationality and beliefs and the effect that has on us when we are bound by a society of expectations. The choices we make in the circumstances presented. So I guess in the end the difference is the personal connection and the ability to connect the story, the emotions and experience directly to our heart.

The Welsh Girl did that for me. It was simple and complex, heart wrenching and comical, the hate of war and the intimacy of love, and the undercurrent throughout the book encompassing the three main characters of the quest to define and know one’s self. The raw nerve of this proposition is one to which I relate, the shock of a personal decision which is made but not understood and the question of how we can know what is right for us, ourselves our being but not truly relate it to being ourself that has made it and then the further interrogation of our deeper motives and self that challenge and scare us. The power of making that choice, the consequences and how they tug at our heart, this book sings those things to me.

So I sit here, 4pm Australian time, (some ungodly hour in England), heavy tears rolling from my cheeks as I feel the character’s pain, the sorrow and joy wrapped in the ending. How much the story relates to mine, and how much it doesn’t.. how significant her choices were, and how significant (albeit not as huge) are to me.

I long to debate this with you. Challenge the paths the authors chose, how similar and different the books are, the merits, the pitfalls, in particular, what do you think of the ending? I found it well rounded, worthy to the book, tying in all the queries, resolving the open threads and leaving me humble.. still aching for the passion and somehow for it to work between them. In this you are right! in this story, I didn’t wish for him to return from war triumphing to his love, but to the passion of the intimate exchange between two supposed enemies.

Most of all I am in love with the poetic tangle of all the relationships of the characters with themselves, the English man who is German Jewish, the German who fought full of pride, then learns that he is not the person he thought and the Girl, Welsh but longing to be what she is not, tied now with English blood, German Love and Welsh pride. I loved the journey.

No comments: