Monday, December 08, 2008

Guest Review by 'Steffan'

'The Heyday in the Blood' by Geraint Goodwin.

Geraint Goodwin was born in Newtown, Montgomeryshire and made his name as a successful Fleet Street journalist. His ambition,however, was to write creative fiction, and in the 1930s he returned to Powys and produced stories set in that part of Wales. This book, the latest in the excellent 'Library of Wales' series, was first published in 1936, just five years before Goodwin's too early death at the age of thirty eight.

'The Heyday in the Blood' is set in an 'out of the way' community in Montgomeryshire during the 1930s. The local inn, the Red Lion, is the centre of village life and the place where this novel's unruly characters collide.

From its first pages, Goodwin draws one into an almost vanished world, remote but strangely recognisable to anyone familiar with rural Wales. Its passionate cast are poachers, drinkers, fighters, hunters and poets - sometimes all at once. The pub is full of arguments and tall tales and these robust, funny, life-affirming characters are in constant rebellion against authority.

The story centres on the redoubtable Twmi Tudor, the landlord of the pub, his strong willed daughter, Beti, and the two men who pursue her, Evan, the bankrupt miller and tyro poet, and Llew, her bold and sometimes violent cousin. In some delightfully written scenes, among them visits to the nearby markets and fairs, a confrontational foxhunt, and a poaching expedition with its pugilistic aftermath, Beti, Llew and Evan develop their relationships.

While the isolated village seems to offer an unchanging way of life, this is no innocent Eden, and the outside world increasingly impacts on the character's lives. Set against the massive economic and political influences which crashed through Wales in the thirties, neither the rambunctious, instinctively defiant inhabitants of the taproom, nor the young people struggling to make sense of their volatile emotions can remain unaffected by larger forces.

Goodwin was part of that flowering of Welsh writing in the 1930s and his style is recognisably of that time, though this book overflows with humour, unlike the work of one of his major influences, D H Lawrence. By turns comical, lyrical and intense, we may feel nostalgic for the lost world described here, but Goodwin isn't a sentimentalist. He has a sympathy and compassion for his characters - he really seems to like them, and so did I. This is another fine volume from the 'Library of Wales' project, attractively designed, with a useful foreword, and a pleasure to read.

The Book is available from Fuze in Newtown.

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