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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully rendered novella
I came across this novella as a "Book at Bedtime" on Radio 4, and I'm so glad I did. I had never heard of this writer or book. It is the story of a dairy maid, Ann Goodman, living on the English/ Welsh border in the nineteenth century. She torn between her warring desires, her English and Welsh sides, as much as she is between the two men in her life, one English, one...
Published on 31 May 2008 by A. Baker

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting window to the past
It was an interesting read and look into the past of a border community and the age old rivalry between English and Welsh.
Published 3 months ago by Robin Bartlett


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully rendered novella, 31 May 2008
This review is from: Country Dance (Library of Wales) (Paperback)
I came across this novella as a "Book at Bedtime" on Radio 4, and I'm so glad I did. I had never heard of this writer or book. It is the story of a dairy maid, Ann Goodman, living on the English/ Welsh border in the nineteenth century. She torn between her warring desires, her English and Welsh sides, as much as she is between the two men in her life, one English, one Welsh. You know that this is never going to have a happy outcome, but the economical rendition of Ann's words in her journal give the novella a beautiful elegance.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully constructed novella about choices that have to be made, 27 Mar 2013
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Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Country Dance (Library of Wales) (Paperback)
The Library of Wales has done a great service to English language writing by Welsh authors in publishing this short novel by Margiad Evans, the pen-name of Peggy Whistler, 1909-58. The author lived for much of her life in Ross-on-Wye in the Welsh Border Region.

This novella, published in 1932 and written mostly in the form of a diary by Ann Goodman, describes life in this border region in the mid-1800s. Ann is the daughter of a shepherd, who is English, and a Welsh mother. The book opens with her leaving Wales, where she has been living with a relative, Mary, on a farm. there she has met an Englishman, Gabriel, and they agree that she should keep the diary for the period that she is in England looking after her mother.

Ann's father works for a Welsh landowner, Evan ap Evans, who takes a fancy to her, in part because of her spirited rejection of his approaches. Evan speaks to Ann in Welsh which infuriates Gabriel who believes that their conversation is much more intimate than is the case. This leads to fights between the two suitors with the Welshman coming out on top (rather like rugby). The understanding between Ann and Gabriel is broken by the latter's jealousy ("Who is that calling you dear names in Welsh, so friendly?", "Get away, you little bitch, and find your Welshman!") and he throws their diary into the bushes where Ann recovers it and continues to write. Seeing this, Evan renews his approaches.

Ann's father is rabidly anti-Welsh and, following his wife's death and her wish to be buried in Wales, he rejects his daughter out of hand, "See here, now your mother is dead, I have no use for you; all you could do for me I could do a great deal better for myself". Ann returns to live with Mary in an environment where farm work, the weather and the seasons dominate everything.

Whilst the English-Scottish border is much better known in poetry, literature and song, not least through the works of Sir Walter Scott, literary works about rivalries, distrust and violence across Offa's Dyke are much less common. In this work, the struggle is played out between Gabriel and Anne, between Ann's father and mother, between Ann and her father and, to a degree, between chapel and church, and minister and parson. In time, Ann turns toward Evan as a resolution for her rejection by those closest to her.

The novel is framed by brief sections which describe the background to the diary and what happened after the last entry was made. The former creates the impression that Ann is not a literary character but a real person, and the later comings and goings of characters across the border, of peddlers selling (and stealing) and of farmers at risk of disaster from disease and bad weather show the border region as a rather special and "in-between" place. A place where even a sheep dog competition can be a source of considerable trans-national tension.

The author's characterisation of the two nationalities is not deep, the length of the novella not offering this opportunity, but the two national stereotypes are marked out and are as recognisable as those today at the National Stadium or Twickenham. The challenge of depicting conversations in the two languages is very well addressed; at the beginning Ann writes in English for Gabriel to read. Welsh phrases are included and the language is indicated by an old-fashioned style ("You have no cause to be affeared with me"). Ann, of course, is bilingual and suffers an internal battle between the two languages, the two countries and the two rivals for her affection.

The coda to the novel shows that life treats all of the main characters badly, Ann the worst. The title of the book, Country Dance, must be taken with a large pinch of salt. The backbreaking efforts of getting the crops in and ensuring that the animals are protected and disease-free, the grinding cycle of births and deaths, a father turning to drink to escape the loneliness and futility of life after his wife's death and the violence between Anne's two rivals all point to life being anything but a dance.

In a salient Introduction, the novelist, Catrin Collier (born in Pontypridd, the daughter of a Prussian refugee and a Welsh father), mentions that Margiad Evans wrote to considerable critical and popular acclaim during her relatively short life. It is to be hoped that the publication of this book will stimulate renewed interest in her work and lead to the publication of her other novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting window to the past, 8 April 2014
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It was an interesting read and look into the past of a border community and the age old rivalry between English and Welsh.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse inside, 5 July 2013
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The writer manages to take us inside the hearts and minds of the border people of an earlier time with great authenticity.
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Country Dance (Library of Wales)
Country Dance (Library of Wales) by Margiad Evans (Paperback - 23 Dec 2005)
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