Imatge de l'autor

Peter Ho Davies

Autor/a de The Welsh Girl

8+ obres 1,677 Membres 75 Ressenyes 2 preferits

Sobre l'autor

Obres de Peter Ho Davies

The Welsh Girl (2007) 1,083 exemplars
The Fortunes (2016) 273 exemplars
Equal Love (2000) 94 exemplars

Obres associades

The Best American Short Stories 2001 (2001) — Col·laborador — 545 exemplars
The Best American Short Stories 1995 (1995) — Col·laborador — 302 exemplars
Granta 81: Best of Young British Novelists 2003 (2003) — Col·laborador — 273 exemplars
The Best American Short Stories 1996 (1996) — Col·laborador — 247 exemplars
Granta 68: Love Stories (1999) — Col·laborador — 149 exemplars
Mixed: An Anthology of Short Fiction on the Multiracial Experience (2006) — Col·laborador — 75 exemplars

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Membres

Ressenyes

A gripping tale of a love story between a German prisoner of war and a local Welsh girl
 
Marcat
INeilC | Hi ha 56 ressenyes més | May 1, 2023 |
For Esther Evans, seventeen, June 1944 in Cilgwyn, her village in North Wales, brings sights and sounds of the wider world she dreams of: BBC broadcasts, radio performers from London, English soldiers building an encampment. Living with her sheep-farmer father, who’s a Welsh nationalist, and an ill-tempered young evacuee, Esther has little to excite her except her job at the pub, where she rubs elbows with “foreigners,” including the English corporal with whom she’s stepping out. Don’t tell Dad.

Meanwhile, Karsten Simmering is taken prisoner defending a Normandy beachhead on D-Day. He doesn’t know what to think of himself for surrendering; his fellow prisoners, neck-deep in admiration for the Führer and certain of final victory, shame him for it, conveniently forgetting that they too put their hands up.

You know that Esther and Karsten are destined to cross paths, so you can guess that the encampment being built is for prisoners of war. Their relationship is an intriguing premise, and Davies shapes it well, conveying alliances and resentments with subtlety and aplomb, whether in Cilgwyn or the prison camp. He also colors his narrative with wistfulness, desire for escape, and search for a comfortable, fitting definition for the word “nation,” which several of his characters seem to lack.

I do question how Karsten speaks such fluent English. I also dislike the unmentionable trope that changes Esther’s path, both for itself and its predictability and borrowed from a humorless Victorian novelist (the offending work even rates a mention). But at least Davies makes it his own, and his prose renders the village and POW camp in unforgettable detail.

Unfortunately, he buries the Esther-Karsten narrative under a subplot connected to it only vaguely through the nation-belonging theme, an infelicitous addition at best. The novel begins with Joseph Rotheram, a British intelligence officer of German birth, assigned to observe and question the infamous Rudolf Hess. Hess, Hitler’s righthand man until 1940, when he flew an airplane to England, has spent four years under heavy guard. The Allies contemplate war-crimes trials, at which Hess would be a star defendant. Yet he claims amnesia, and no questioner can penetrate that mask.

Rotheram hates his assignment, especially for the reason he’s there: he’s considered Jewish, an identity he hotly (and accurately) denies, since his mother is Christian. But his superiors insist on saying he is, and they suppose that Hess will detect his “race” and react, whereupon they’ll have their prisoner in a bind. What an anti-Semitic trope, heightened when Rotheram’s officer comrades speak as if he has no country, only a tribe.

Davies knows how to set a scene, and he’s imagined a couple notable confrontations between Rotheram and Hess, especially during a screening of Triumph of the Will, Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous propaganda film. It’s like Hamlet’s play within a play, hoping to catch the conscience of the king.

But to wade into anti-Semitic tropes requires insight, and Davies’s narrative suggests he knows little or nothing about Jews or Judaism. Rotheram’s Jewish only to the extent that others think he is and scorn him for it; he has no thoughts about that identity or his family’s past, other than rejecting it. You might as well say the Welsh characters are Welsh only because the English make bigoted jokes about them.

Toward the novel’s end, Rotheram starts thinking like his anti-Semitic superiors: “The Jews, he knew, had no homeland, yearned for one, and yet as much as he understood it to be a source of their victimization, it seemed at once such pure freedom to be without a country.” I suspect Davies has no idea his character appears to find liberation in thousands of years of expulsion, enforced statelessness, expropriation, and murder, justified by the slander that Jews owe allegiance to no country.

A critic quoted on the jacket flap praises Davies’s “all-encompassing empathy.” Not quite.

To my fellow historical novelists, please: If you must write about the Holocaust, make sure you treat your Jewish characters as full people. Please don’t deploy them like paperweights to keep themes or plot points from blowing away. Tropes and stereotypes hurt.
… (més)
 
Marcat
Novelhistorian | Hi ha 56 ressenyes més | Jan 24, 2023 |
Historical fiction set in northern Wales near the end of WWII involving three primary characters. Esther is a seventeen-year-old whose mother died when she was young. She helps her father run her family’s sheep farm and also works in a local pub. Karsten is a German soldier who speaks English. He is being held in a nearby POW camp and is haunted by his decision to surrender. Rotheram is a half-Jewish German who has fled to England and works as an interrogator of German prisoners, specifically assigned to interview Rudolf Hess. At first, his story seems unrelated, but as the book progresses, we begin to see the impact of his story on the other two.

This is a subtle, slowly developing, character-driven book. The characters are ordinary people brought together during extraordinary times. Each character is faced with moral quandaries and the author keeps the reader’s interest in wondering how these issues will be resolved. The three main characters are very different, yet they are similar in that each is an outcast and each character struggles with doubt, guilt, and fear. They evolve over time, learning through their experiences.

Though this story eventually involves a relationship, it does not sink into sentimentality, and it is not the primary focus of the book. Instead, it is oriented around symbols, such as the Welsh concept of cynefin, a Welsh term connoting the intimate connection between the sheep and the land they occupy. It is not difficult to extrapolate this idea to the people in the story. Themes include nationalism, identity, belonging, freedom, secrecy, honor, courage, and loyalty.

I have always been interested in reading about different parts of the world during the second World War to get a feel for what life was like and how people coped. It is like putting together an enormous jigsaw puzzle, filling in portions at a time to eventually reveal the bigger picture. This book fills in the pieces related to life in the rural Welsh countryside, which is an integral part of the story. I learned a great deal about the history and culture of Wales. I found it extremely well-written, meaningful, and thought-provoking.
… (més)
 
Marcat
Castlelass | Hi ha 56 ressenyes més | Oct 30, 2022 |
the first part was great, if a little too neatly tied up and not subtle; the next part was told in a style and a voice I found so off-putting for some reason I was soured on the rest of it.
 
Marcat
sirk.bronstad | Hi ha 10 ressenyes més | Jul 22, 2022 |

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Estadístiques

Obres
8
També de
8
Membres
1,677
Popularitat
#15,325
Valoració
½ 3.6
Ressenyes
75
ISBN
61
Llengües
1
Preferit
2

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