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The Valley: A Hundred Years in the Life of a Yorkshire Family Paperback – 26 Mar 2015


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Product details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (26 Mar. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408831635
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408831632
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.5 x 20.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,800 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

It's hard to imagine a more compelling account of its generational aftereffects than the one contained here . Profoundly moving . To be allowed to share all of those secrets is, as Benson notes, a privilege for the writer - but it's a privilege for the reader too. This is social history at its very best (GQ Magazine)

The moving history of four generations of one Yorkshire mining family. Through them emerges the story of 20th century working-class England (Woman & Home)

This rare and finely tempered work serves up a devastating combination of memory and imagination ... The Valley is a landmark history (Literary Review)

The detail is delivered in a fine poetic rhythm ... Wonderfully evocative ... Not for a heartbeat is there a false or faltering note as various life stories unfurl and conflate, invariably amid hardship and leading to heartbreak (The Times)

Could not be more meticulous or magically intimate if it tried . Exquisite, finely worked texture of petit point ... the reader comes to feel he is holding not a book of social history in his hands, but a fat and vivid novel ... The Valley is a masterpiece of empathy and good writing, and I hope that in months to come it will be on the receiving end of a great deal of reciprocal love (Observer)

Benson captures the hard graft and constant perils of colliery life with cinematic vividness ... For an unvarnished, well-crafted obituary of the human side of mining, there won't be anything better than The Valley (Independent)

The early sections of The Valley recall the world described by D. H. Lawrence in Sons and Lovers but, with her spirit guides and secret passions, Winnie could have wandered in from the pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude ... The Valley is an extraordinary book about hidden lives ***** (Frances Wilson, Daily Telegraph)

Intensely enjoyable (Sunday Times)

How many social reports have you read that combine the epic sweep of Gone With The Wind with the microscopic intensity of Tolstoy ... Extraordinary . There is no need for photographs to put a face to the individuals so compellingly captured by Benson **** (Sunday Express)

Fascinating (Daily Express)

Vivid (Daily Telegraph)

Remarkable ... Benson's book is a masterpiece of empathetic imagination (Lucy Lethbridge, Financial Times)

Benson relates more than the story of a hard land and proud culture; this is a saga about hard-working men and strong-minded women who bolstered one another through the many strikes and struggles of the 20th century (Saga)

Epic . Benson captures the hard graft and constant perils of colliery life with cinematic vividness, especially in the set-pieces on mining accidents. For an unvarnished, well-crafted story of the human side of mining, there won't be anything better than The Valley (Independent)

Intensely enjoyable (Sunday Times, Must Reads)

I wish I'd written it. Richard Benson's new book, a sprawling masterpiece chronicling 100 years in the life of one mining family in the Dearne Valley, is social history as it is meant to be. Neither novel nor documentary, it is a compelling hybrid of both (Yorkshire Post)

Book Description

From the no.1 bestselling author of The Farm, this is the story of twentieth century working-class England through four generations of a Yorkshire mining family

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Bright on 13 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ann Pithers on 30 April 2014
Format: Hardcover
I thought the author must know all the journalists, the newspaper reviews for this book were so good. But for once they were justified. This is an amazing work. Compelling, warm, sad, funny, moving, and a window on a lost world. RIP the mining industry. Its demise was a scandal. This book is a must for anyone interested in social history, but also for anyone who loves a family saga. It's gripping, and to think that it is based on the author's actual family is staggering. You couldn't make it up. I thoroughly recommend this gem of a book. The only drawback? How heavy it is to carry around! Because you won't be able to put it down.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 14 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Grew up in the same village so knew of quite a few of the characters mentioned. Moved away from the area as an adult so it was quite a trip down memory lane. Found the coverage of the miners struggles over the years very informative, not something my own father (a miner himself) ever talked about.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By D. Cameron on 11 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this compelling reading, from the spiritualist daughter of a miner in the early 1900s, right up to the present day. It's character "driven" but this is set against social/political and economic history - the family are therefore both a counterbalance and part of, the bigger picture. Wonderful stories, sad and amusing, deep and thoughtful. I finished this long book in a few days and i now miss the family! Excellent and highly recommended (excellent on the kindle as it means it's not too heavy to carry around :-)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By dave wallace on 15 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Brilliant book, written as if it were a novel.
The research has been excellent and the accuracy of events first class. Read it!
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Format: Kindle Edition
I really enjoyed this book, feeling in the end that it gave the lives of ordinary, working people a place in history that would stand up there with the so-called “great and good”. It is the story of the Hollingworth family and, for me, it was every bit as entertaining and illuminating as anything that may be written about, say, The Windsors. And when it comes to recent British history, it was much more illuminating.
The story of the Hollingworth’s is told by one of their own from the perspective of present day mores and values and built up by the hand-me-down memories of his relatives. So, although the book dwells much in the past, the tone has a modern feel to it and the author seems to have no qualms about inserting thoughts, dialogues and motivations into the portrayal of his more distant relatives. Although the author is at pains to point out that all these events actually happened, I was more concerned about how the author might know what a female relative felt when her husband beat her, how she excused him, how she lived with herself and how she would describe the event to a friend or neighbour. It seemed that a huge slice of artistic licence must have been taken, but that’s not a criticism because it works. It helps to transport you back to a time and place and accepts that you are going to be imagining these events, as he is, from a modern perspective. Indeed, the past is a different country and they did do things differently there.
The book isn’t a soap opera, but like many soap operas, it is the women who are the strong characters. They dominate the majority of the book and it is they who make the lasting impressions as the matriarchs of the community.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By dorothyjean on 19 May 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fascinating book. I am really enjoying it. It is interesting to follow the characters through the generations against the background of the industrial north.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dai in Southampton on 23 May 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very insightful and enjoyable. A social history.
Would recommend to Yorkshire folk and those interested in modern history and coal mining in England.
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