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Welsh Valleys Characters



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Success Stories

by David Jandrell

characters.jpg

ISBN 0 86243 772 5
Y Lolfa, 2005
78pp, paperback
Retail price 3.95

Open Book

Review by Deborah Fisher

Y Lolfa, based in west Wales, is a successful independent publisher, specialising in moderately-priced general interest books, including fiction and non-fiction in both Welsh and English. David Jandrell, the author of this book, has previously produced a volume entitled Welsh Valleys Humour, in Y Lolfa’s "It’s Wales" series, and Welsh Valleys Characters is really a follow-on from that.

He does not stick closely to his brief. In fact, the introductory pages are candid about the fact that the book is not really about "characters" at all, but about "groups" to be found in the Welsh Valleys (by which he means the valleys of the industrial south). Such groups, he tells us unenlighteningly, "will be everywhere you look, and everywhere you turn". For "groups", read stereotypes (the builder, the computer expert, the motor mechanic), and I am not at all sure that such characters or stereotypes could not be found in other parts of Wales, the UK, and even the world. Within these limitations, it is an entertaining book. Mr Jandrell, a teacher and youth worker from Cwmcarn, is not a great writer in the normal sense of the term; neither is Roy Noble, the popular media personality who has written the foreword. However, both of them have a way with words, sufficient to make them successful in their respective fields.

Welsh Valleys Characters is full of jokes (described in the text as "stories", presumably to make them appear more worthy of inclusion). The illustrations reflect this mood, consisting of a mix of cartoons and black-and-white photographs of misspelled signs and other amusing sights from the area in question. There is a humorous parody of the "pub quiz" (a phenomenon hardly exclusive to the Welsh Valleys), a section on popular excuses, and snatches of conversations supposedly overheard by the author.

Overall, there is nothing startlingly original about this book, and I can’t claim to have fallen in love with it, but it’s more commercial than most of the books I review. It is the kind of thing that might keep the reader amused on a train journey, but not the kind you would bother requesting from the library. Still, at 3.95, it’s only the same price as some of the more expensive magazines you see in W H Smith and is liable to give you far more reading pleasure (no adverts, for one thing). When you’ve finished with it, you could always pass it on to a friend who’s ill in bed and could do with a laugh.

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