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How Green Was My Valley ()

National Book Award Winners

This melancholic elegy for departed loved ones and the vanished way of life of a Welsh coal mining town is one of the most beautiful books ever written.  The narrator, Huw Morgan, tells the story of the lives and loves of his extended family and their townfolk as their closeknit community disintegrates under the pressures of modern life and the decreasing profitability of the mine--from brothers who have to move to America to make a living or others who are killed in the coal pits, to the widowed sister-in-law who Huw loves for years but never tells, to Mr. Gruffudd the local minister who helps Huw through childhood paralysis & becomes his tutor, to Dai Bando who teaches him to box and most of all to the beloved parents who suffer long but love greatly.  The language itself is lyrical and haunting, the story ineffably sad. But always, Huw reminds us that these remarkable people live on in him:

    Courage came to me from the height of the mountain, and with it came the dignity of manhood, and
    knowledge of the Tree of Life, for now I was a branch, running with the vital blood, waiting in the
    darkness of the Garden bring forth sons and daughters.

    I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me, those who were to come. I looked back and
    saw my father, and his father, and all our fathers, and in front, to see my son, and his son, and the
    sons upon sons beyond.

    And their eyes were my eyes.

    As I felt, so they had felt, and were to feel, as then, so now, as tomorrow and forever.

    Then I was not afraid, for I was in a long line that had no beginning, and no end, and the hand of
    his father grasped my father's hand, and his hand was in mine, and my unborn son took my right
    hand, and all, up and down the line that stretched from Time That Was, to Time That Is, and Is Not
    Yet, raised their hands to show the link, and we found that we were one, born of Woman, son
    of Man, made in the Image, fashioned in the Womb by the Will of God, the Eternal Father.

It is the permanence that these mortal souls gain through the medium of memory that ultimately makes the book uplifting.


Grade: (A+)


Book-related and General Links:
    -Biographical Sketch
    -How Green Was My Valley:  A review of the novel and movie by Jon Kennedy

    -Elizabeth's HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY Page
    -ESSAY: John Ford and John Prine: Prine’s “Paradise” against Ford’s 1941 classic How Green Was My Valley. (Lukas Armstrong-Laird, 6/07/24, Splice Today)

    -History and Status of the Welsh Language
    -Trashing the Heritage Museum:  Andrew Hedgecock examines the work of John Evans, cultural cartographer of the postindustrial Valleys