on 26 February 2003
One Blue Moon is the second in a series of eight books following the fortunes of a small community in Pontypridd in Wales. They are set from before the second world war to just after it. Each book focuses on the same characters but from a a slightly different aspect although still entwining the story around all the characters. Through the books you follow the characters while they grow and suffer the hardships and the ups and downs of life in the mining town. Throughout the story the author makes the reader laugh and cry and feel a number of differing emotions. The series can be read individually but I think that they are well worth reading from start to finish. I read all eight books over a period of two months and found that each one was even more enthralling than the last. Now I've finished the series I feel totally lost as the books are so well written that the characters seemed so real I feel that I've lost my friends. The books were passed to me by my mother and she felt exactly the same about them. The series is Hearts of Gold, One Blue Moon, A Silver Lining, All That Glitters, Such Sweet Sorrow, Past Remembering, Broken Rainbows and finally Spoils of War.
on 31 January 2002
the first Catrin Collier book i ever read, and i've been hooked ever since.
Set in my home town of Pontypridd, this book focuses on characters struggling to maintain relationships under the threat of the oncoming ww2 I laughed, i cried, i finished it in two days!
My favourite character's are the Powell's, a mining family each having to contend with thier own problems; Haydyn the actor, Bethan the nurse, Eddie the boxer, Maud the youngest traniee nurse.
The characters will become like old friends, i have read the entire series from beginning to end now and i still can't get enough.
This woman should be made a dame!!!
I confess that I had not heard of the author before and I partly bought this book because of its setting, Pontypridd in the 1930s, where and when my mother was growing up. The dedication is to ‘all those who have fought illnesses associated with the Welsh valleys armed with nothing more than patience, courage and the indomitable Welsh sense of humour.’ The book, published in 1993, is the second in the author’s eight book ‘Hearts of Gold’ series’, set in Pontypridd between 1930-1950
Collier’s strength lies in her characterisation and descriptions of Pontypridd in the 1930s, when the recession was biting and jobs were at a premium. It was also a period when TB was ravaging the valleys and when Cardiff must have appeared to be a quite amazing metropolis to visitors from the valleys – towards the end of the book, the welsh capital is firmly put in its place by London. The book opens with the return of Maud Powell and her cousin, Diana, from working in Cardiff Infirmary in the hope of becoming nurses. Maud has contracted TB and Diana has brought her back to Pontypridd, although no-one imagines that the local climate and atmosphere will do anything to alleviate her condition.
From these two characters, the author seamlessly introduces the reader to a host of other characters, family members and, in particular, the many members of the Ronconi family who own the local café, currently run with military precision by Giacomo, Ronnie, Ronconi, the owner’s eldest son. Its interior was ‘backed by an enormous mirror that reflected the rear of the huge mock-marble soda fountain, and stone lemon, lime and sarsaparilla cordial jars. A crammed conglomeration of glass sweet jars, open boxes of chocolate bars, carefully piled packets of cigarettes, cups, saucers and glass cases of iced and cream cakes filled with every available inch of space on the wooden shelves.’ The representatives of Italian and Welsh communities are much as I recall them, and I remembered once again, after 6 decades, the ice creams treats that they created.
Like his father, Ronnie has simple beliefs, that hard work will bring success and that his sisters should marry Italian Catholic boys. Since there are few of these in Pontypridd it is Ronnie who must protect his sisters from the lecherous tendencies of Welsh boys. I was convinced by all of the characters that Collier introduces with the exception of a silent chess-playing Russian, Charlie, but perhaps he has been planted in the town for a reason.
The grimness of life in the early 1930s is very obvious, jobs are few, pay is low and townspeople have to steal coal to keep warm. If they are caught they face swingeing prison sentences. The young seek their pleasures at the cinema, in the café and furtively in the shadows. There are one or two richer families, one visitor being amazed to find a bath in the bathroom, together with ‘lavender water, Pear’s and Kay’s soaps. Men’s mint Cologne, bottles of evening in Paris, 4711 eau-de-Cologne and Essence of Violets. Shaving soaps and antiseptic shaving blades. Tubes of cherry toothpaste and small tins of Erasmus tooth-powder, and at the practical end of the table, a massive jar of petroleum jelly and a large bottle of liniment rub.’ I am of an age to recall some of these and their scents and smells come rushing back to me.
Collier has captured the contemporary voices of her characters very well, with references to Jews and ‘Rees the queer’. There is the expected harridan, for whom no-one can do the right thing, a bully and a rapist, a Church of Wales minister, a boxer, a theatre assistant with ambitions to sing and many more, but the author never leaves these as two dimensional figures in the background. Relationships begin and end, over- and undergarments are removed tastefully.
In her Acknowledgements, Collier downplays her research, but it shines through every page with its love and attention to detail. There are several spelling mistakes that were not picked up - perhaps the best when Gina, Ronnie’s sister, is helping him pack: ‘Ronnie, where are you going?’ she whispered, as he picked up his one good linen skirt.’ Just where will this cross-dressing storyline take us to?
My only reservation about the book is whether it would appeal so much to a reader with no family or emotional no link with the location. Had the book been set in a Scottish or Midlands town, I probably would not have bought it and so would have missed out on a very good read. Not having read the first book, I cannot comment on the added benefits of reading the books in order.
on 16 December 2013
This kind of storyline is not normally something I go for, truth be told the first book in this series was free, but let me tell you how fascinating it is, the insight on how people had to live in the 40`s, it was almost like you were there.
Made you laugh, cry and left you wanting more I just couldn't put it down, no sooner had I finished one book I was buying the next, it's very well written so good in fact that you would think the author was writing about her family.
You won't regret reading it or the rest in the series, 5 stars is not enough deserves more.
Don't forget to have the tissues ready.
on 14 October 2014
If you are a fan of historical/family sagas, then this is a must. This is the second in the series of 8 books, and as the family circle expands and intertwines, you can't fail to be drawn into the relationships, hopes and dreams, and successes and disappointments of the various family members. In addition to this, the level of historical detail is fantastic, and all credit to the author for this.