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The Welsh Girl

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  3,405 Ratings  ·  522 Reviews
Set in the stunning landscape of North Wales just after D-Day, Peter Ho Davies's profoundly moving first novel traces the intersection of disparate lives in wartime.
ebook, 352 pages
Published August 16th 2013 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2007)
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Tracy
Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: absolutely everone
I loved this book. It was a little slow going at first and the first 20-30 pages I had to half-push myself into. Then I got caught up in the story. The language used is beautiful, some sentences so perfect they hurt, but at the same time it doesn't distract at *all* from the story being told. This is a book I read at first primarily for the story and now I want to reread again for the subtle nuances I missed. But it makes me think and it makes me happy and I love the characters - not just how th ...more
Lela
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My interest was held by this historical fiction novel set in England at and after DDay. Several really good characters and two stories interwoven -- one in a Welsh village with all its touchy locals & the incomer English and the other about the determination of Rudolph Hess's sanity. The best and most compelling character is Karsten, a German POW captured by surrender on DDAY who was eventually held in a POW camp in the insular Welsh village. He was a very sympathetic character, surprisingly ...more
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
In a small village in North Wales in 1944, seventeen-year-old Esther works behind the bar at the Quarryman's Arms with her boss, Jack. Her father, a sheep farmer, spends his evenings in the pub's Welsh-speaking public bar, while the "lounge" side of the pub is full of Englishmen - sappers mostly, soldiers who were sent to this out-of-the-way place to build something secretive. Esther has been seeing one of these sappers, a young man called Colin - it is the closest she can get to her dreams of s ...more
SarahC
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel is about conflicts of nation, loyalty, and identity. Novels trying to construct this kind of story sometimes become cliche, but this one has a very sincere tone that is refreshing. English intelligence officer Rotherham has trouble dealing with his German Jewish heritage. A German officer surrenders under heavy fire, is sent to a camp in Wales, and begins to see the uncertainties of his life overall. A young Welsh woman wonders where the definitions are set - enemy? traitor? fatherlan ...more
Lady Drinkwell
There were a lot of things I really liked about this book. There were beautiful lyrical descriptions of life in Wales during the war, with particularly interesting comments on national loyalties. The Welsh girl at the centre of the story was a very interesting character, and everyone in the story was very believable. However I kept waiting for the connection with the story about Hess to become clear and when it did it was really a very slight connection. There were some wonderful little scenes w ...more
Jim
Jun 26, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Shepherds
Peter Ho Davies’ debut novel, The Welsh Girl, is an historical fiction set in the latter half of World War II in a remote village in Wales. The construction of a secret camp causes much excitement in the village, particularly for Esther, a young barmaid who has fallen for one of the English soldiers tasked with building the camp. The dalliance is particularly volatile because Esther’s father is a staunch Nationalist who views the English as nothing more than Anglo oppressors. Esther’s solider, C ...more
Trisha
You’d think I’d have learned by now that just because a book was nominated for the Man Booker prize doesn’t mean I’ll like it. Even though it got good reviews when it was first published several years ago, and even though many other readers have raved about it, and even though the description sounded interesting and even though it had been recommended to me, I just didn’t like it. I probably should have put it aside right away because it didn’t take long for me to realize that I just wasn’t gett ...more
Kristine
Jan 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written, cinematically rendered WWII novel of interwoven stories of a 17-year-old Welsh barmaid and daughter of a sheep rancher, a German POW who surrendered, and a British interrogator who is a German Jew. Very interesting exploration of cowardice, pride, dislocation, and nationalism with well fleshed-out characters and vivid scenes.
Carl R.
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Welsh Girl has been following me around. Even before I finished the book, I found myself thinking about it in the same way a tune runs unbidden through your brain. I’m still fascinated by the meaning of the title of this piece, but I’m not going to explain it here. You’ll have to read the book to get it.

It’s said that there are often writers who are novelists, others who are short story writers, and that the crossover can be difficult. It’s also said that Raymond Carver tried all his caree
...more
Kalen
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-reads
** 1/2

This just didn't wow me and as obsessed as I am with all things Welsh right now, that is disappointing. First, the description of the book here and elsewhere feels like it was written by someone who didn't read the book. Secondly, I found Esther to be mildly irritating and only interested in men. Maybe that would have been handled differently by a female author? Maybe I'm being too critical? And finally, the most compelling part of the story to me actually had little to nothing to do with
...more
Saleh MoonWalker
Because so little is known about Hess' motives, he is an excellent subject for a work of historical fiction. Pairing him with an interrogator conflicted about his own identity and in denial about his Jewish ancestry is a masterstroke ..... If the novel's organization is a bit of a muddle, by the end of the epilogue, all questions have been resolved and the earlier missteps redeemed.
Lynette
Good, though I saw little point to the Hess/Rotheram storyline.
Amanda
Why?? Why??? Why???????? I really, really tried with this book. I've been having trouble finding a good book, and I pinned a lot of hopes on this one. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. I love WW2 fiction, but this one just didn't cut it for me. Hopefully, one of my other library books I checked out will be the golden ticket I need.
Sam
Sep 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautifully written book that pulls together the stories of Esther (the Welsh Girl) who lives in a small town in the North Wales Mountains, Karsten a German POW who gets sent to the camp that has been built in the mountains beside the town, and of Rotheram a German Jew who is sent to mid-Wales to interview/interrogate Rudolph Hess while battling his own demons (although this is only a small part of the overall story). Some have said the book is slow to start but I honestly didn't feel ...more
Lana Del Slay
The Welsh Girl
Peter Ho Davies
2008

NUTSHELL: Two plots - one plot = enough plot. This one's more of a 5.

Who's the Welsh Girl? That would be Esther Evans, living in Wales in the 1940s. Her sweetheart's off to war and she and her father have an evacuee child. Esther also works as a barmaid in town.

What's her plot? (view spoiler)
...more
Sammy
Jan 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: b-the-good
Interesting. Unique. Holds it's own in such a full library of World War II historical fiction. It really is different from a lot of other WWII stories out there, which I really appreciated and kept me reading. It was also his writing that kept me truly engaged. I can't even put my finger on it, but something sucked me into this book and kept me there until suddenly I turned the last page, looked up and wondered where the time had gone.

A couple of times I think Davies lost control of his novel. A
...more
Kirsty Darbyshire
Dec 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book

This was a great book that I raced through and couldn't put down. I've read about a hundred good reviews of it and no one seems to have a bad word to say about it - at this point I would be disappointed if it doesn't at least make the shortlist. It's the third book I've read from this year's longlist, and so far it's my favourite.

The setting is the end of the second world war, the location is a small remote village in Wales and the central character is really Esther, the Welsh girl of the title.

...more
Elvan
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading The Welsh Girl. This is one of those books which covers the three E's for this reader. It educates, enlightens and entertains. I admit to knowing very little about the isle of Wales before I read this book. I love it when I come away from a read with a better sense of place and a small understanding of a culture to which I was unaware. When a book broadens my horizons I am a happy reader.

The theme of being captive runs deep through this novel. The obvious, the German soldier Ka
...more
Jackie
Feb 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-read
I always hesitate to read WWII books or any books on war for that matter. I always think they are going to be depressing, dry or too violent, but usually I’m pleasantly surprise when I take the time to read one. The Welsh Girl was one of those that pleasantly surprised me.

The first couple of pages (prologue) were a bit dry, but I was glad that I pushed through it because I discovered a gem when I got to Esther’s perspective of the story. The book follows the perspective of three characters: Roth
...more
Beni Morse
Nov 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A warts and all depiction of small town welsh mountain life in the second world war. Great novel - but his short stories are better.He is interested in identity and barriers between races (not surprising, as a welsh chinese writer brought up in England). In The Welsh Girl, barriers between races keep on crumbling. He got interested when he discovered that in real life, several German prisoners stayed on in Wales after the war and married local girls. I know a few stories like this from the part ...more
Gina
Jan 17, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"This novel will haunt the reader long after closing the book." That's what the Oregonian had to say about this story, and what I think they meant by that statement was it will haunt the reader that they wasted even one moment on the book. The storyline sounded promising- Welsh girl is drawn to a camp of POW's near her village. Makes you think of the young story of The Summer of My German Soldier, right? Nope. Quite a few story lines that could have been a success, but instead, left me feeling l ...more
Chel
I enjoyed this book told from the lives of a remote farming village in Wales in the second world war. I didn't know that German POWs were kept in Wales either so I gained a small understanding of the two alien lives depicted here. Peter Ho Davies writing style and his sensitive portrayal of the effect that decisions made from rulers and how they affect communities in such a profound but personal way was entirely credible. This wasn't a story with a deep plot but it did make you think of where en ...more
Carol
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Super read. Set towards the end of WW2 in a remote Welsh village, Esther is 17 and pulling pints for the sheep farmers and English soldiers building a POW camp. She longs for romance and makes an appalling mistake with the vile Colin. German Karsten, agonising over his surrender at D Day is a touching and noble character and provides real tenderness for Esther. Complex themes of love and loyalty, loss and grief, responsibility and betrayal; beautifully written.
Shan Ellis
Jun 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although a little clunky in places, and a rad clichéd and formulaic I really enjoyed this simple tale of a girl growing up in my little corner of North Wales during the war. The narrative is simple but descriptions of the places I grew up playing were fantastically poignant. I would recommend this as an insight into rural north Wales in the early 1940's.
Jane
Jun 27, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the story line about Rotherham, the interrogator of Hess. Esther's conflicts, however, seemed to be a story I've already read in another novel (in many other novels?), dressed up in beautiful language.
Rose
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wales, just after D-day. A POW camp. A young barmaid. The investigation of Rudolph Hess, who fled Germany, only to be incarcerated late in Wales. Two stories, interwoven, interesting and full.
Herb
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's quite interesting to read The Welsh Girl a couple of months after reading The Fortunes, a book that Davies wrote almost ten years later. It's clear that the same big themes have motivated him for a long time.

One of the things that I felt most strongly here was that, no matter how downtrodden one might feel, one can always find someone else to feel superior to. The Welsh who hate the British. The children of the striking miners (forty years earlier) who still won't have anything to do with t
...more
Alice
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I went book shopping on my fiction shelves at home a few months back to read something on there I'd received as a gift and not yet read, and chose The Welsh Girl. This lovely and loving coming of age tale in WWII Wales is grounded in a deep sense of place captured with reference to the Welsh word "cynefin."

"She'd heard this word before, of course, but the importance of the concept had escaped her as a child. Now Arthur spelled it out. How it would be impossible to farm on the open mountain if t
...more
Annie
Jul 03, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well, Peter Ho Davies The Welsh Girl started out promising, as a sort of grown up Summer of My German Soldier. But it took almost nine-tenths of the book for the three plots to converge. One of which, by the way, I thought Ho Davies had totally forgotten about until the end. When I am as disappointed in a book as I was with the ending of this one, I inevitable wonder if I’ve missed the point. I have a bad habit of projecting onto a book what I want it to be, and then hating it when it doesn’t tu ...more
Kmystraveler
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peter Ho Davies is a great writer. The book captivated me from the first sentence. The characters are well fleshed out- this book reads in technicolor. I loved the setting of ww2 in Wales. Very interesting. He does a great job of tying the theme of: what is home- to a Jewish refugee soldier, welsh sheep farmers, Welsh miners, English soldiers, English children placed in Welsh homes and German POW's to sheep- and their sense of home. Magnificent, poignant and a joy to read.

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Why Hess? 3 44 Feb 06, 2013 02:04PM  
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Peter Ho Davies is a contemporary British writer of Welsh and Chinese descent. He was born and raised in Coventry. Davies studied physics at Manchester University then English at Cambridge University.

In 1992 he moved to the United States as a professor of creative writing. He has taught at the University of Oregon and Emory University and is now on the faculty of the MFA Program in Creative Writin
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“This is what men will never understand, she realizes...Their dishonor, men's dishonor, can always be redeemed, defeat followed by victory, capture by escape, escape by capture. Up hill and down dale. But women are dishonored once and for all. Their only hope is to hide it. To keep it to themselves.” 1 likes
“Maybe it's a kind of freedom too. To stay home.” 1 likes
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