I know South Yorkshire's Dearne valley and the social and historical context of this book intimately, having grown up, worked in and studied (as an academic) the locations in which it is set. The accuracy and sensitivity with which Richard Benson renders the working class culture built around coal mining as it ebbs and flows across the generations and finally succumbs to the cruelty of politically orchestrated de-industrialisation, is remarkable. I know (professionally) how hard it is to avoid the twin traps of nostalgia and polemic with this material and Benson navigates around both with consummate skill, at the same time always maintaining a narrative drive that extends the book's reach way beyond the title's understated ambitions as a family chronicle. The sense of life being lived and made as everyday tragedies and small-scale splendours unfold within a rich, politicised (and now disappeared) structure of feeling; the deep, almost geological continuities of family through time and place; both of these characteristics reminded me, in the very best way, of those large, ambitious and steadily flowing works of Sholokov, such as "And Quiet Flows the Don". In short, I know the literature of coal mining culture in great detail, and this book quietly and gently takes its place among the best material worked from that seam for a long time. This is an important and valuable work that far exceeded my expectations, hence five stars.
Dr Geoff Bright, Education and Social research Institute,Manchester Metropolitan University