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The Coward's Tale Paperback – 29 Mar 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (29 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408822636
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408822630
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 547,377 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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)

Spellbinding (Guardian)

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)

Book Description

A dazzling first novel about kinship and kindness, guilt and restitution and the ways in which the present is carved out of an unforgiving past.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have really enjoyed this book, with its cleverly interwoven stories of the people of a small Welsh town. The sense of community and the way lives intersect through events was very strong, and I really liked the eccentricities of the characters. The writing is very good so it draws you into believing the quirks and it has been a pleasure visualising people like the baker who throws his bad bread into the river, the woodwork teacher making feathers and the groups of cinemagoers who repeatedly fall under the storytelling spell of the beggar Ianto Jenkins, and never make it to the films.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Coward’s Tale is beautifully written and so definitely, deeply connected to the landscape and the country about which it is written. I suppose this maybe influenced by the fact I listened to it rather than read it but I don’t think so, not really, when I think of the lyrical quality of Gebbie’s prose it does seem absolutely perfect and fitting for writing about traditions gone by and the culture of what was once a mining own.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I read the last few chapters of The Cowards Tale in bed this morning with the conflicting emotions I always get when coming to the end of a book I have come to love - joy at the unfolding and elegant culmination of the story journey I've been on, and sadness that there are no more pages left to turn.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I want to state first that the author is a friend of mine, but I didn't feel compelled to either review the book or to say what I am going to say. I finished The Coward's Tale this afternoon and I think it astonishing, one of the best books I have ever read, and I read a lot. It is a poem, it is stories, it is a novel, it's a song, it is about death, life, family, tragedy, history. It is about the power of story and the telling of stories and what that does for the individual, for the community, for those who have experience great loss and are trying to rebuild and move forward. For me it had echoes of the Holocaust. And the way it all came together was immensely powerful and, in my opinion, absolutely perfect. This is not just a book it is a literary achievement and I already know that I am not alone in thinking this.
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Format: Hardcover
The writing style does take a page or two to get used to, but once you do, you're off and running. The Welsh village comes to life as Vanessa draws out the tales of the characters you'll come to know and love. It's an interesting, endearing and cleverly woven fable, with realistic, exquisite detail. The darkness from her short story collections is not as much evident in this, her first novel. I'm looking forward to the sequel!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a warm, witty and, most of all, humane novel. A detailed portrait of a fictional - or rather, in a strict usage, mythical - town in the Welsh Valleys, built out of a series of linked stories told by the village bard, a beggar, a toothless rather than eyeless Homer, who is also a participant (his is "the coward's tale").
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.
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