peteg's blog

Peter Ho Davies: The Welsh Girl.

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Kindle. Strip mining Davies's output, going back from his recent set of shorts The Fortunes to this, his first novel. Clearly proud of his Welsh heritage, Davies unpacks aspects of the World War II experience from various perspectives, mostly set in a small quarrying and farming village. Again the writing is fine and it all comes down to whether the stories speak; the extensive research is mostly lightly worn, and sometimes wrought into imagery I found painfully visceral (Chapter 22, a doctor responding to an implicit request for an abortion):

"You're thinking you can blackmail me, perhaps, but in the first place I don't care, and in the second place no one else will either. You know what I have in there? A ward of blokes just brought in on a hospital ship. Pulled out of the North Atlantic. Torpedoed. Know how cold those waters are? Man's lucky to live ten minutes. Know what kept them alive? All the oil burning on the surface. I've fellows in there with the hair scalded off their heads, and frostbitten toes. You think they give a toss what I’ve done in the past?"

The girl herself is mostly acted upon, as are, I guess, all the characters. Rudolph Hess plays a framing role. There's a lot going on here, perhaps too much.