May Book Group – Fresh Apples by Rachel Trezise

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Fresh Apples by Rachel Trezise

The Reading Wales book group met on Wednesday evening to discuss Rachel Trezise’s award-winning collection of short stories Fresh Apples. After discussing Margiad Evans’s Country Dance in April, Palas Print owner Eirian James suggested a modern text. Eirian had read and loved the collection of stories when they were first published in 2005 and admitted that although she could not remember all of the stories there were certain images created by Tresize that had stuck in her mind over the past eight years. This was a quality of the stories that a lot of the group could identify with. Those of us who read short stories regularly agreed that it is usually imagery (in this case chickens, bubble-gum and train tracks) rather than plot lines we remember when it comes to short stories.

Some group members found Trezise’s subject matter of drug and child abuse challenging and would have preferred the stories to explore a wider range of issues. Some found the dark humour laugh out loud funny whilst others would have liked more hopeful outcomes for some of the characters. I suggested it would be interesting to read one of Rachel’s novels where the character development and the length of the text might provide more humour and further insight into character’s lives.

It was Rachel’s setting of the valleys that provoked the most conversation in the group. As a North Walian with no experience of the South Wales Valleys it is interesting to see how the place can divide opinion. One reader suggested the main character of Rachel’s stories are the valleys themselves – in the same way that the border country characterised Margiad Evans’s novella.  However, we also agreed that the stories are not limited to South Wales – they could represent any post-industrial landscape. For me, the most interesting thing about the stories is how they represent a community that has changed very little in a post-industrial era. The dark humour and marginal characters reminded me of Gwyn Thomas’s depictions of the valleys – proving the issues at the heart of people’s lives have not changed over the twentieth century. This does not mean that life is always bleak but it does highlight the importance of community in these parts of South Wales. This was best summed up in my favourite story ‘Chickens’ which beautifully depicts the unique relationship between a young girl Chelle and her Grandad. It is these carefully drawn relationships between family and friends that we particularly appreciated as a group.

We all felt that the best is still yet to come from this young Welsh writer. One member wondered what Trezise’s future work might explore now that she has documented her experiences of the valleys. We also agreed that it would be interesting to read her latest collection of short stories Cosmic Latte, in order to see how her work has progressed over the last few years.

Book Group – 16th & 17th April

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Thanks to everyone who came to the first meeting at Palas Print! We’ve decided to set up two groups, morning and evening – both meeting at Palas Print in Bangor. You can find Palas Print here.

In the first book group we will be reading ‘Country Dance’ by Margiad Evans which you will find in Bangor University Library, Bangor Library or you can buy it from Palas Print.

Country Dance presents a first person account of passion, murder and cultural conflict played out in the young Ann Goodman, who is torn by ‘the struggle for supremacy in her mixed blood’, Welsh and English. In this love story, set in the late nineteenth century, the rural way of life is no idyll, but a savage and exacting struggle for survival.

The first book groups will be on:
Tuesday 16th April @ 9.30am
Wednesday 17th April 5.30pm

If you haven’t already been in contact it would be great to hear from you if you’re thinking about joining either of the meetings.

Reading Wales Book Group Needs You!

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Today, Thursday 7th March, is World Book Day – the perfect time to announce the launch of the Reading Wales book group.

Do you live in the Bangor area? Do you want to learn more about English language literature in Wales?

Postgraduate Alex and Palas Print owner Eirian are joining forces to establish a new book group.

Welsh Writing in English is established in academia but this book group will aim to promote it to the wider Welsh community. If you’re a new mum, retired, or just fancy trying out something new, the book group will offer the time and space to discuss a literary tradition that is important to Welsh culture.

Our aim is to meet every month, and the first meeting will give us a chance to discuss when and where to meet, and most importantly, what books to read.

The first meeting will be at the end of March. Anyone interested in joining the group, or just finding out more should contact Alex Ross by email eluc47@bangor.ac.uk where she will provide further details including the date and time of the first meeting.

Or you can contact Eirian James at Palas Palas Print on 01286 674631, or 01248 362676, email eirian@palasprint.com or just pop into the shop.

The Dragon Has Two Tongues

The first post of a brand new blog! The aim of this blog is to get people interested in and talking about Welsh Writing in English.

Over the next few months I will be blogging about various WWiE authors and texts and uploading details about the Reading Wales book group. I’ll also be using Twitter and Facebook to get the conversation flowing – what Anglophone Welsh literature should we be reading and why?