Wednesday, 16 March 2011
At a recent reading group meeting, we discussed Peter Ho Davies The Welsh Girl., which is the story of Esther and her life in a Welsh village, fiercely nationalistic in its attitude, at a time towards the end of the Second World War. There are English sappers nearby, building something (which turns out to be a prison camp), one of whom becomes Esther's friend. The German prisoners captured after the D-Day landings, eventually occupy the camp and are taunted by the village boys, including the evacuee living with Esther and her father. on their small farm. One of the prisoners, a young German who surrendered because he could speak a little English, learnt from visitors to his mothers pension in a tourist area, escapes and spends a little of the time he is free on the farm and builds a relationship with Esther. Some of us found this easy to get into, but then found their interest waning a bit, while others enjoyed the whole story. We had a fascinating discussion about the question of identity and "belonging", which are important themes in the story, as several members of the group had had childhoods in which they moved around a lot, so felt quite keenly the problem of belonging somewhere. I thought Esther was a well drawn character and seemed in some ways more mature than her actual age , perhaps because she had had to take on the housewifely duties of her mother after her death. Her reluctance to marry Rhys, is I feel quite understandable, as she had dreams of a life away from the village that were encouraged by her mother, yet failed to be realised because of changing circumstances.