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3.4 out of 5 stars
A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Before reading Clare Dudman's new novel, A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees, I was only vaguely aware of a Welsh presence in Patagonia. I knew, in a Trivial Pursuits kind of way, that there was a pocket of Welsh speaking down there in South America, and I had the bizarre fictional images from Malcolm Pryce's wonderful noir detective stories set in a fantasy Aberystwyth (like Abertystwyth, Mon Amour), where Patagonia is frequently referred to as the Welsh equivalent of Vietnam, with war veterans cropping up in the stories now and again. But I knew nothing of the real nineteenth century attempt to colonize part of Patagonia.

Although the book is a novel it really does capture the historical context beautifully - you can feel the hardship of reaching the place, only to discover that the promised meadows and tall trees are actually scrubland and bare earth. The colonists battle against remarkable odds, losing loved ones and nearly starving. The author is always wonderful at giving us a feel of what it's like to live in a different environment, and I've never seen it done better. Lyrical and informative in equal parts, this is a novel that a non-fiction reader can appreciate for its descriptive content while still giving flight to the imagination and good development of characters that the reader cares about. Recommended.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2010
This is a very powerful book. It starts with a punch and doesn't let up as it describes the adventures - and misadventures - of a group of nineteenth century Welsh settlers in the wilder parts of Patagonia. They battle with the elements, the indigenous peoples, bureaucracy and, most importantly, one another as they try to establish themselves in hostile territory. It's a beautifully written tale in which the historical elements - obviously the result of considerable research - never override the human story. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 December 2012
This book tells the story, via fiction, of the heroic Welsh immigrants who settled in Patagonia from 1865. It contains tragedy and pathos but also hope, and we know that the Welsh succeeded in their endeavours. It also describes the local Indians, their way of life and their, in the main, peaceful and inquisitive nature. It is an excellent book and has taught me, in a most enjoyable way, about a period in history that I knew nothing about. Well worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 31 December 2012
I really enjoyed this book. The story-telling was excellent and takes the reader on a journey of happiness, dispair, faith, loyalty and courage as a small group of Welsh try to hack out a life in the Patagonian desert. The book is loosely-based on real people and events which gives it an extra dimension of reality.
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on 9 November 2013
Interesting subject matter which I knew little about - other than that Welsh emigrants had indeed made a new life in Patagonia in the past - so I was looking forward to reading this novel. Got a bit bogged down in the story, but there were some well-drawn characters among the settlers, their leaders, and also the native Indians. The hardship and sadness endured by the Welsh farmers in their new homeland contrasted starkly with life in the cities, and knowing that the story was based on true events made it all the more poignant.
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on 12 April 2014
The author had undoubtedly done her research before setting out on writing this novel. Many characters are based on real settlers. Unfortunately by sticking closely to the historical events, the novel lacks real structure and just fizzles out at the end. Having said that, it does give a fascinating insight into the dreadful experience these brave Welsh men and women endured. That Welsh-speaking Patagonian settlements still exist is a tribute to their tenacity.
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on 12 February 2014
I thought I'd give this a try as it was different to anything I'd read before. Still a little unsure about it. It was interesting but lacked that something to make me want to carry on reading.
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on 1 September 2013
A well written book of a time of great struggle heartbreak and hardships. I can't say I enjoyed this book as it is sad but I definitely found it interesting
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on 1 December 2013
A good and interesting read about a subject that is little known part of welsh history.well written and informative book
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on 1 August 2013
A good read and I learnt an awful lot from it that I wasn't aware of. Something different and worth the nother
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