Set in Wales in the late Victorian era (the precise time is never clear), How Green Was My Valley tells the story of the Morgans, a poor but respectable mining family of the South Wales valleys, through the eyes of the youngest son, Huw Morgan.
Huw's academic ability sets him apart from his elder brothers and enables him to consider a future away from this troubled industrial environment. His five brothers and his father are miners; after the eldest brother, Ivor, is killed in an industrial accident, Huw moves in with his sister-in-law, Bronwen, with whom he has always been in love. Later, Huw's father is also killed in the mine. One of Huw's three sisters, Angharad, makes an unhappy marriage to a wealthy mine owner and never overcomes her clandestine relationship with the local minister.
After everyone Huw has known either dies or moves away, he decides to leave as well, and tells us the story of his life just before he does. (From Wikipedia.)
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About the Author
• Birth—December 8, 1906
• Where—Hendon, Middlesex, England, UK
• Death—November 30, 1983
• Where—Dublin, Ireland, UK
Richard David Vivian Llewellyn Lloyd, better known by his pen name Richard Llewellyn, was a Welsh novelist.
Llewellyn was born Richard David Vivian Llewellyn Lloyd of Welsh parents in Hendon, Middlesex in 1906. Only after his death was it discovered that his claim that he was born in St. Davids, West Wales was false.
Several of his novels dealt with a Welsh theme, the best-known being How Green Was My Valley (1939), which won international acclaim and was made into a classic Hollywood film. It immortalised the way of life of the South Wales Valleys coal mining communities, where Llewellyn spent a small amount of time with his grandfather. Three sequels followed.
He lived a peripatetic life, travelling widely throughout his life. Before World War II, he spent periods working in hotels, wrote a play, worked as a coal miner and produced his best known novel. During World War II, he rose to the rank of Captain in the Welsh Guards. Following the war, he worked as a journalist, covering the Nuremberg Trials, and then as a screenwriter for MGM. Late in his life, he lived in Eilat, Israel.
Protagonists who assume new identities, often because they are transplanted into foreign cultures, are a recurring element in Llewellyn's novels, including a spy adventure (Edmund Trothe) that extends through several volumes.
Llewellyn married twice: his first wife was Nona Sonstenby, whom he married in 1952 and divorced in 1968, and his second wife was Susan Heimann, whom he married in 1974.
Richard Llewellyn died on 30 November 1983. (From Wikipedia.)
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Critics Say . . .
(Older works have few, if any, mainstream press reivews online. For more, see Amazon and Barnes & Noble customer reviews.)
A story of exquisite distinction and vibrant interest; clear and strong as the music under the sky.
New York Times
Llewellyn's tale of a young boy's coming-of-age in a Welsh mining village—the source for the beloved John Ford film of the same name—is "a beautiful story told in words that have Welsh music in them...a book that will live in the mind and memory of its readers.
In characterization, in vigorous scenes, in the picture of the everyday life of the family and the village, in tragic scenes and in festive ones, the book cuts deep into our hearts. It is a profoundly moving story, realistic and yet poignantly lyrical...[with the] simplicity of a peasant saga and occasional over-playing of the heroic.... The story is told by Huw Morgan, looking back from the vantage point of old age to the days of his youth, as one of a large family, when "green was my valley"—and his language is still tinged with the almost Biblical overtones of his people. Don't overlook this book.
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Book Club Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:
Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for How Green Was My Valley:
1. Talk about the character of Huw Morgan—whose better angel often gives way to his lesser one.
2. Think about the ways in which the novel pits the strength of family unity against the dissolution of community and progress. How does the narrator view the idea of progress?
2. The book's characters question their religious beliefs. As a child, Huw wonders how Jesus could be divine, and after his fathers death, Huw's mother renounces her belief altogether. How would you answer Huw and his mother?
3. What is the significance of the slag pile, a phrase which Llewellyn took initially as the novel's title?
4. Many have commented on the book's poetic language. Talk specifically about the book's use of Welsh dialect. What was Llewellyn's purpose? Did it enhance or detract from your reading experience?
5. Do you feel the issues raised in the book have relevance to today—particularly environmentalism, the labor movement, and corporate governance.
6. Discuss Mr. Gryffyd's decision to resign his post as pastor? Was he correct to do so? Were there other options?
(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)
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