Book of the Week – Shifts by Christopher Meredith

Deindustrialized Wales in the 1970s


Anglophone Welsh writing gained momentum in the thirties yet there is a wealth of more recent writing to discover. The industrial novels of Lewis Jones and Jack Jones explore the boom and bust of the early twentieth-century, whilst Christopher Meredith’s debut novel Shifts (1988) explores the harsh reality of deindustrialisaton during the seventies- something which changed the industrial face of Wales forever.

The stagnant relationship of unhappily married Keith and Judith mirrors the decline of their steel town in the valleys. Shifts tackles themes such as emasculation and issues that surround the changing economic face of Wales.  Women are soon to become the breadwinners as the hard labour of the steelworks makes room for the ‘clean’ industry of the marshmallow factory.

Returning from England to his native Wales, no-good boyo Jack has left his English ex-girlfriend in the lurch and is about to embark upon an affair with Judith when he becomes Keith’s lodger. When Keith finds out about the tryst his reaction is not one you might expect from a man scorned. You’ll like this if you enjoyed Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night, Sunday Morning. Jack possesses the same Jack-the-Lad qualities of Arthur and both novels deal with the realities of relationships in working-class Britain.

A great read to compare against earlier industrial novels set in the valleys. Shifts as it title suggests deals with themes that are ever-present in Welsh Writing in English texts – industrial life and the passing of time.

Click here to buy ‘Shifts’ or browse other Welsh Writing in English texts at Palas Print.


2 thoughts on “Book of the Week – Shifts by Christopher Meredith

  1. Hi Alex. I stumbled upon your site while looking for a critique of Shifts, which I finished reading today. I started the book many years ago (as a student) but for some reason, it failed to engage me. Twenty years later I couldn’t put it down. Throughout the novel there’s a pervading sense of being trapped by one’s environment, of an individual’s impotence against change and ‘progress’ and whether it’s better to accept (Keith) or keep looking for something better (Jack). The novel is really powerful and feels even more relevant today than when it was written. I’m looking forward to reading Chris Meredith’s later books. Great site, by the way.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the review and the book! When it was taught on an MA module this year I was one of the only students who liked it! I agree it is still very much relevant today.

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