Books That Inspire 2006

How Green Was My Valley
Richard Llewellyn

How Green Was My Valley tells the life story of a boy growing up in a coal-mining valley in south Wales. He sees his valley consumed by the coalmines, green meadows giving way to black slag heaps, ultimately almost destroying the community itself. Yet this is not a story of failure, rather one of the persistence and ultimate triumph of the human spirit, and the eventual return of his green valley. It’s a great story, with all the necessary ingredients of a good read – a strong story line that keeps you hooked, drama, humor, love, music, environmental desecration and rescue, politics, and a happy ending. It’s also a story that is told by a Welshman, Richard Llewellyn, and thereby gives a rare insight into the Welsh soul. The Welsh have a passionate love for their land, language and culture, and express their emotions through the arts, including poetry, song and literature. Indeed the first two lines of the Welsh Anthem “Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn annwyl i mi, Gwlad beirdd a chantorion” loosely trans-lated (it’s not supposed to be expressed in English) proclaims “The Ancient Land of my fathers is dear unto me, Land of the bards and singers.” The Atlantic Monthly review called the book “A beautiful story, told in words that have Welsh music in them.” I too am Welsh, and belong to the Conwy Valley in North Wales. My best memories are of a summer spent working with my uncle Owen John in construction ‘up the Valley’ around Llanrwst. I have never felt more part of a place and people. I have not lived there for forty years, but carry it with me in my soul. I go back periodically to replenish my spirit, to sit on a hillside above the valley and drink in the sights, sounds and smells of my land. Then I can go on with my life, away but always part of my Valley.
Lee Williams
Vice-President, Research
Graduate College