The Coward's Tale Paperback – 29 Mar 2012
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My novel of the year ... an extraordinarily lyrical, moving, funny evocation of a Welsh mining town ... A terrific achievement (A.N. Wilson Financial Times Book of the Year)
Gebbie's prose has something of the musical rhythm and cadence of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood ... a hypnotic debut (Independent)
A striking first novel, poetic in style and funny ... reminiscent of Dylan Thomas at his best (Readers' Books of the Year Guardian)
'Tender and gripping - a brilliantly written epic' (Maggie Gee)
'Compulsively readable. She writes with such warmth and kindness and her poetic writing is meticulous in its apt and close observation' (Mari Strachan, author of The Earth Hums in B Flat)
Powerful in its storytelling, touching in its view of small-town life, and bold in its stylised language (New Welsh Review)
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Top Customer Reviews
In the unusual tales of a community it reminded me of Louis de Berniere's early books, but with more of a bittersweet tone and quieter characters, carrying the inheritance of a tragedy in the town with them.
Despite the wonderful depth and lyrical quality of Gebbie’s novel, there is nothing twee about it. It isn’t whimsical or removed from reality, they people I met as I read felt real, removed from my life but definitely real and their stories, however far-fetched, from the carving of wooden feathers to the non-thief who actually breaks into people’s homes and put things in there, were believable, touching and wonderfully written.
The format of Gebbie’s novel was particularly enjoyable, moving from hints at the character, then onto the backstory, as told by Ianto Jenkins, and then usually back forward in time to the modern day, with many of the characters who have heard the backstory now present and playing some part or questioning the original character.
Central to the story that runs through the middle of all the subplots is Laddy Merridew, in the town by chance after being sent to live with his Gran after the separation of his parents. He’s infiltrating a community in some ways and gets closer and closer to the beggar Jenkins, desperate to hear his stories and become his friend. Ianto Jenkins himself is a masterpiece of a character and the end of the novel, too sad.
The story lines are intricate and engaging and the characters are even more so, I truly fell in love with this novel and am adding Gebbie’s other works to my reading list as I’m sure I’ll enjoy them all.
Huge congrats Vanessa for a beautiful lyrical tale. The gentle yet powerful narrative pulled me in before I knew it and having spent much of the past year going back to my original home in South Wales and regularly driving up the Rhondda, through Merthyr and over Dowlais Top to Blaina, the sense of place, voice and idiom were joyously & poignantly accurate.
It has been compared with Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, inevitably, given the Welsh setting, but is just as closely connected to the Canterbury Tales. But both comparisons are, although justified, ultimately misleading. Vanessa Gebbie has her own voice, her own style, her own approach.
The most useful analogy in describing the power and appeal of the novel would be with not another writer but an artist - Stanley Spencer. Gebbie does for the Welsh Valleys what Spencer did for Cookham: raising the particular into a timeless, universal vision of love and, ultimately, innocence.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I kept being reminded of Dylan Thomas as I read and enjoyed The Coward's Tale. Vanessa Gebbie has a wonderfully lyrical talent. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Joan Byrne
I’m writing this review having just finished this novel, which perhaps is more a collection of short stories woven together with one man’s guilt, shame and compassion. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Lykaios
An enjoyable read which is poignant and moving. A host of interesting characters set against a local historical tragedy. RecommendedPublished on 30 Jun. 2014 by Caroline Rathmell
If u like D Thomas, youll like this book, if u dont then you will not like it. Maybe his poetry is better.Published on 28 Mar. 2014 by bettyparry
Probably one of the most beautifully lyrical and poetic books I've read in a long time. One of those that makes me reread each paragraph and keep stopping to smile to myself (or to... Read morePublished on 3 Feb. 2014 by Tamsin Fraser
This is a deftly crafted, lyrically written piece of fiction set in a (former) mining community in South Wales. Read morePublished on 20 Jan. 2014 by Valcroix
This is the most beautiful set of intertwined stories I have read for many years. Stories of people in a small Welsh mining town in the aftermath of a pit disaster told by the town... Read morePublished on 2 Jan. 2014 by alismum
One of the best books in a while, the insights into Welsh life with the modulations of language most excellentPublished on 7 Nov. 2013 by Mrs D Smith
The Coward's Tale is a beautifully written story by the talented Vanessa Gebbie. It is a complete story as well as a collection of shorter stories centred around the (so called)... Read morePublished on 2 Sept. 2013 by M. Scowcroft