Friday, 19 June 2009


Reading one of next month's books - "Shirley's Guild", by David Pryce-Jones, has induced further nostalgia, this time for Wales. I was lucky enough to study English Literature at Aberystwyth, and the references in this book to Welsh place names, people and history strongly reawakened memories of those vastly enjoyable three years.

The book is set in a fictional Welsh Marches village, and describes the chain of events which unfolds when it is perceived that mysterious and possibly miraculous forces are called into play following the death of a young girl. We are introduced to the community through the eyes of Francis Williams, a wonderfully well-drawn figure representing faded aristocracy, whose struggle against ever-mounting household debts is set in the context of a cherished, predictable daily routine that acts as an insulation against the chaos and threat of the wider world.

A letter may arrive from Williams, Probart, once the family partnership for which he had neither inclination nor aptitude but which continues to handle his affairs. Old Barry Probart, his father's closes friend, refuses to charge, or at any rate to send in an account. When Francis's parents had been killed, he had shed tears, which nobody would have credited looking at his leathery face. The firm's envelopes marked Private and Confidential have been so many stepping stones to impoverishment and carry the kind of dread incompatible with peace of mind.
I look forward to seeing how the community - described so well in the novel - of the gentile, the nouveau-riche and the labouring villagers respond to the alleged miraculous phenomenon at the heart of the book.


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