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4.8 out of 5 stars60
4.8 out of 5 stars
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 30 April 2014
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
on 11 May 2014
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 2014
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2014
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 February 2015
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. The men for the most part eat dripping sandwiches, drink, sleep and hope not to die in a pit explosion, while accepting the daily possibility of this kind of event. The women keep hearth and home together while the men come and go around them. This theme continues as the story moves through the more modern history of the Miners Strike with the impression being given that the men are the participants but it is the women who are the backbone that allow them to be involved. As a social history of the strike, this account wears its heart on its sleeve and their is no doubt whose side the author is on but, being from a mining family myself, I tended to be on that side too.
The history stretches over a hundred years of the family and major events do add shade to the picture, but primarily the book is about the people, their lives and their loves. I was flagging a little bit in the middle, but once we reach the Sixties the book seems to become more lively and immediate, the characters more fully developed. Given it’s five hundred pages long, this was a shot in the arm that kept me going to see what happened to everyone as they progressed through times that I also had experienced. I finished it satisfied with the tales that had been told and reflecting on time passing. How do we capture it? The author has gone a long way to try and crystalise an experience of his own family, and has succeeded in painting a picture that is entertaining, vivid, rounded and that overall rings true. It’s entertaining and thoughtful, and a somewhat unique account of a hundred years of British history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 May 2014
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
on 12 November 2015
I picked this book up thinking it might be a pleasant read - but it was so much better than that. It's so well written, interesting and informative and I found myself feeling quite involved with the characters. Right from the early 1900's up to recent years, this story of the author's wider family is fascinating. There were many scenes from the book that reminded me of my own childhood in the early 60's and I can well remember the period of the miners' strike but lived down South so never really knew what went on. This book gives gave me quite an insight and I shed a few tears over the deprivation the miners went through.
I absolutely recommend this book : whether you are interested in social history or just want a darn good read, this is well worth getting. I'm now going to find anything else the author has written!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2014
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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on 26 October 2015
This beautifully written book is a history of one family in a Yorkshire mining community. It succeeds as a social commentary and as a child growing up in the 60's there was lots I could identify with. Knowing what we do now about Thatcher and McGregor's plans for the British mining industry I found it hard time read the chapters dealing with the 1984 mine's strike without becoming angry at the Tory government for deliberately setting out to ruin the mining communities. Indeed you can see parallels today in the treatment of the steel producing towns by the present Tory government who don't understand what it means to be united around one dominant industry in an area, and don't care about the consequences for those communities when the mines and steel works close.
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The Valley tells the story of several generations of Richard Benson's family who lived and worked in the Dearne Valley, South Yorkshire. Most of the men in the book were miners and there's a fair bit of history relating to miners' strikes. The book is non-fiction but told in a way that is much more interesting than just a book of facts. For me it's the best kind of family story - facts interspersed with imaginings of what people might have said and done, with conversations and family folklore retold.

It's a big book at just over 500 pages, but a very human story with characters to like and some to dislike. The author writes about them without bias and I found it all really interesting.
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