Today we shine the spotlight on some hidden gems from the archives – fiction, poetry and non-fiction prize-winners from years passed which, if you haven’t read already, come highly recommended.
We’ve just passed the mid-week hurdle, and that means there’s only a few days left to take advantage of our half price summer sale. If you’re struggling to choose your next read, why not start with one of the extraordinary books below? These are the oldies and goodies from the Seren archive.
Letter to Patience, John Haynes
Costa Poetry Award Winner, 2006
Set in Patience’s Parlour, a small mud-walled bar in northern Nigeria, at a time of political unrest, Letter to Patience is a vividly atmospheric book-length poem divided into cantos. The poem is not only a biography, or an essay on post-colonialism, it is an epic portrayal of a beautiful and troubled country and of one man’s search for meaning in difficult times.
Touch, Graham Mort
Edge Hill Short Story Prize Winner, 2011
From a young child adrift on an ice-filled lake to an ageing farmer facing life alone, the twenty-one stories display a deep sensitivity to both the natural world and to human relationships. In skilfully crafted prose, vivid with detail, Mort examines the strength and fragility of life and the ties that hold us within it.
Touch spans twenty years of short-story writing, and includes the Bridport prize-winning story ‘The Prince’.
Berg, Hilary Menos
Winner of the Forward Prize, Best First Collection, 2010
In this extraordinarily vibrant debut collection, icebergs floating down the Thames jostle with transvestites in Singapore, aliens wading the Hudson River and the lively crew from the local slaughterhouse. We go shopping with Ingomar the barbarian and watch Bernard Manning gigging at Totnes Civic Hall. Throughout, Menos brings a sophisticated sensibility to her poetry. Her subjects are seen aslant, with ironic as well as tender intentions.
The Gift of a Daughter, Emyr Humphreys
Wales Book of the Year Winner, 1999
Archaeology lecturer Aled Morgan and his wife Marian flee to Tuscany, and the home of old friends, to escape a family tragedy. Yet even immersed in Etruscan culture, Aled finds that friendships aren’t all they seem, and that his wife has become almost a stranger to him. The Gift of a Daughter is a novel of delusion and self-knowledge, tradition and change, loss and identity in which the pace, plotting, characterisation and dialogue are as faultless as we expect from a writer of Emyr Humphreys’s experience and skill.
Sound Archive, Nerys Williams
Winner of the DLR Strong Award, 2011
Shortlisted for both the Forward Prize Best First Collection and the Michael Murphy Prize, Sound Archive is a strikingly original first collection of poems. Using formal strategies similar to modernist painting: abstraction, dislocation, surrealist juxtaposition, the poet conjures a complex music, intriguing narratives, and poems full of atmosphere that query identity, gender, and the dream of art as a vehicle for emotion and meaning. Williams confronts our preconceptions about what it might mean to be a woman writing against the background of two formidable traditions: that of Welsh-speaking Wales and of English literature.
Watching the Fire-eater, Robert Minhinnick
Wales Book of the Year Winner, 1993
Watching the Fire-eater covers variety of subjects: third world poverty and the internationalism of alcohol, rugby through the eyes of a vegetarian, nuclear power, sunbathing and a thanksgiving dinner for the demise of Margaret Thatcher. But at the core of this essay collection is a vivid series of attempts to strip away the exhausted mythologies of the writer’s own country and the increasingly-packaged places he visits. Whether in the rainforest or the big match crowd, Minhinnick’s language: acid, imagist, compassionate, celebrates the people he meets and, fleetingly, defines their lives.
Blue Sky July, Nia Wyn
Barnes & Noble Discovery Prize Winner, 2009
Set between the summers of 1998 and 2005 in Cardiff, Blue Sky July follows the story of a mother whose child suffers a devastating brain injury. It traces her journey into a world hidden away in society’s pockets as she battles against impossible odds to heal him.
Through Wyn’s intimate day by day musings, the book explores the impact of the tragedy on her home life, love life, friendships and connection to the world, as the most extraordinary relationship unfolds between them. Blue Sky July won the Glen Dimplex Biography Prize and was shortlisted for both the Good Housekeeping Book of the Year, and Wales Book of the Year.
Time Being, Ruth Bidgood
Roland Matthias Prize Winner, 2011
Time Being is Ruth Bidgood’s tenth collection, and a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. It has been said, rightly, that Bidgood’s work is ‘emphatically a poetry of location’ and it is the history and nature of her particular region of mid-Wales that most inspire the author. Her distinctive voice has a quiet authority but also a subtle, conspiratory edge, as if she is letting one in on a secret, unveiling a hidden fact, or making a discovery. She avoids sentimentality, but – unfashionably – not sentiment; an observation can engender joy or sorrow or fear uncluttered by irony. These are ambitious attempts to transcend the lyric and move towards a more epic, multi-faceted form equal to the many experiences of her long life.
The Colour of Dawn, Yanick Lahens
Winner of the RFO Award (2009); Prix Millepages (2008); and Prix Richelieu de la Francophonie (2009)
Port au Prince, Haiti. The police roam the streets and no-one is safe. Fignolé, musician and political radical, is missing. His sisters Joyeuse and Angelique search for their young brother amid the colourful bustle, urban deprivation and political tension of the city. Eventually they will find him, but in the process they will also have found more about themselves than they wanted to know. The Colour of Dawn is a tense, passionate and vividly told story of small victories of hope in the face of a seemingly impossible fight against a monolithic regime.
Bilbao–New York–Bilbao, Kirmen Uribe
Spanish National Literature Prize Winner, 2009
Bilbao–New York–Bilbao takes place during a flight to New York and tells the story of journeys by three generations of the same family. The key to the book is Liborio’s fishing boat, the Dos Amigos: who are these two friends, and what is the nature of their friendship? Through letters, diaries, emails, poems and dictionaries, Kirmen reflects on the art of writing, and the distinction between life and fiction. Kirmen’s novel, translated by Elizabeth Macklin, creates a mosaic of memories and stories that combine to form a homage to a world that has almost disappeared, as well as a hymn to the continuity of life.