Kipling Book Club

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Book Review

How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

Discussion rating 5/5


Book Synopsis

As the slag from the valley's coal-mining shifts slowly over Huw Morgan's home, he relives his life in this once vibrant Welsh community. When the valley was still green and vibrant with life, the youngest son witnesses the events that rock his traditional family of five other brothers and two sisters.

It is a time when church deacons use the rule of religion to control crime that is almost non-existent...a time when the concept of a union blows into the valley and slowly grows into the close-knit community's first strike.

Through Huw Morgan's eyes, we see family members grow into adulthood and leave home, the development and death of the coal-mining industry in his valley, the laborious birth and growth of a union, the racial clash between the Welsh and the English, and his own personal experiences as he grows into manhood.


Reactions varied from finding it pedantic to a book that details life exquisitely and vividly with sentences that soar in majesty.

Discussion covered the following areas:

  • the extreme commitment to the family and the community,
  • the hardship and drudgery of the women,
  • how the only career choice for women was marriage with a focus on Angharad's choice between two men,
  • the leadership role of the preacher and how he was placed on a pedestal. This was compared to today's leaders in small communities and how they endure the same high expectations.
  • Beth Morgan's power as a woman seen in her speech to the union,
  • the description of voices singing in the valley,
  • how Huw Morgan appeared so perfect in the book. So we explored his character development and found some of his flaws.
  • how Owen's passion for building an engine and making it run forced him to make a choice between the woman he loved and the work that he loved,
  • how Owen's brother Gwilym pined for Owen's girlfriend,
  • how Marged's madness and death coincided so closely to Owen's finally getting his machine to run,
  • the inadequacies of words to explain women's emotions and how true that is still today,
  • the author's use of the male pronouns when Huw talked or thought about Earth. Finally at the end, he used female pronouns to describe Mother Earth.


Richard Llewellyn Papers, 1939-1952 (bulk, 1949-1952) at the University of Texas, Austin.

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