Three pages into Charles Webb's New Cardiff the hero Colin Ware observes that there is:
a tradition in Nineteenth Century American fiction ... where you have love gone wrong, then off the person gets packed to Europe ... to put their relationship behind them. ... I thought I'd see if it would work for me a hundred years or so later, the other way around.
Thus indicating that Charles The Graduate Webb's novel (the first for 25 years), is to be situated in a tradition spanning Henry James to Notting Hill: the clash of these two cultures separated by the same language.
Colin, an English artist, has been cruelly tricked by his life-long love, and goes to repair his broken heart in New Cardiff, Vermont, following in the footsteps of the original settlers from Wales who came in search of coal. Colin is the Jamesian innocent in reverse, finding wisdom, ethical solidity and artistic inspiration in the straightforward American values of the friends he makes and in the woman with whom he falls in love. There is a pared-down simplicity to this novel (of which perhaps 80 per cent is dialogue), that gives it the quality of a fairy tale, or perhaps a modern morality play.
But, true to the Jamesian original, satire is never far from the surface. Having recently undergone a transatlantic transplantation himself, Webb is eminently qualified to pull the rug from under the stereotypical beliefs each culture has about the other. In essence it is about the tricks life plays on us, and the crueller ones we play on each other. This is a warm, occasionally very funny book, with some glimmers of the talent that made The Graduate a timely masterpiece, but hardly worth the quarter-century wait.--Robert Mighall
--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
It is rare to come across something done with so light a touch but such precision...it's spot on (LITERARY REVIEW)
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Delightful...Webb writes with...suppressed joy in his creations and this joy quickly transfers itself to the reader. (SUNDAY TIMES)
Rewarding for those who appreciate subtlety and wit. (TIME OUT)
A masterpiece of poignancy and bittersweet romance. Let's hope we don't have to wait another 25 years for its successor. (DAILY MAIL)