I’m pleased to share my review today for this historical fiction novel set in the Welsh Valleys during the First World War. Thank you to Hera Books for a digital review copy – my thoughts are my own.
The world was crumbling, but her love stayed strong
November 1915. For young housemaid, Anwen Rhys, life is hard in the Welsh mining village of
Dorcalon, deep in the Rhymney Valley. She cares for her ill mother and beloved younger sister Sara, all while shielding them from her father’s drunken, violent temper. Anwen comforts herself with her love for childhood sweetheart, Idris Hughes, away fighting in the Great War.
Yet when Idris returns, he is a changed man; no longer the innocent boy she loved, he is harder, more distant, quickly breaking off their engagement. And when tragedy once again strikes her family, Anwen’s heart is completely broken.
But when an explosion at the pit brings unimaginable heartache to Dorcalon, Anwen and Idris put their feelings aside to unite their mining community.
In the midst of despair, can Anwen find hope again? And will she ever find the happiness she deserves?
A beautiful, emotional and heart-breaking saga set in the Welsh Valleys of the Great War
that fans of Nadine Dorries, Rosie Goodwin and Sheila Newbury will love.
This book is well written and researched. Francesca Capaldi start the book by explaining that the war didn’t finish by the first Christmas in 1914 as widely hoped and more young men volunteered from the village of Dorcalon. However one of the young men, Idris, is sent home due to being medically unfit and breaks off his long time engagement with Anwen. The novel follows the lives of Anwen and Idris as they deal with lives made even more difficult by the loss of loved ones to consumption, food shortages, profiteering, domestic violence and social changes. The work at the mines had become slightly better paid – coal was needed for the war effort, but the living conditions weren’t improving.
I enjoyed the novel which brought the village of Dorcalon to life – the choir, the allotment, the hardships, the start of social change and the community spirit. The explosion at the colliery is dealt with sensitively, you feel the emotion of the characters as they wait for news.
I’m pleased to see that Francesca Capaldi is looking to set another book in the area of Dorcalon – she brought the Valley to life in this book. I was initially drawn to this book because I come from a coal mining family, albeit in Derbyshire, rather than Wales. At the end of the book, Francesca Capaldi talks about her inspiration coming from her own family. I also wish I had listened more to my grandpa and his brothers, who all went down the pit at the age of 14. I remember seeing the scars on my grandpa’s back from rockfalls. I’ve also visited the National Coal Mining Museum near Wakefield a couple of times with my own teenagers, and appreciate how difficult it must have been to work underground – for more information visit www.ncm.org.uk
Several years ago, Francesca Capaldi pursued a childhood dream and joined a creative writing class. Lots of published short stories, a serial, and three pocket novels later, she’s now explored her mother’s ancestral history for a novel set in a Welsh colliery village. A history graduate and former teacher, she hails from the Sussex coast but now lives in Kent with her family and a cat called Lando Calrissian.
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