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The Welsh Girl

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  3,876 ratings  ·  566 reviews
From the acclaimed writer Peter Ho Davies comes an engrossing wartime love story set in the stunning landscape of North Wales during the final, harrowing months of World War II.

Young Esther Evans has lived her whole life within the confines of her remote mountain village. The daughter of a fiercely nationalistic sheep farmer, Esther yearns for a taste of the wider world
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 12th 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2007)
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Average rating 3.43  · 
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 ·  3,876 ratings  ·  566 reviews

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Joy D
Historical fiction set in northern Wales near the end of WWII involving three primary characters. Esther is a seventeen-year-old whose mother died when she was young. She helps her father run her family’s sheep farm and also works in a local pub. Karsten is a German soldier who speaks English. He is being held in a nearby POW camp and is haunted by his decision to surrender. Rotheram is a half-Jewish German who has fled to England and works as an interrogator of German prisoners, specifically ...more
Superstition Review
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing

The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies is set in a Welsh village near the end of WWII. Davies splendidly sets his story against the backdrop of WWII without weighing it down with too much action or too many war terms. It is also set against a pastoral countryside so there are very lyrical and elegant passages. There’s also a love story between the Welsh girl and the German POW, but it goes beyond that.

What’s most intriguing about this story is that it is driven by the characters’ actions and

Aug 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
N.N. Light
Wow! Just wow! Such an incredible book. I can't put into words how good it is.

Reviewed by: Mrs. N

My Rating: 5+++++ stars
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
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? ...more
Lady Drinkwell
Jul 25, 2016 rated it liked it
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 ...more
May 03, 2016 rated it did not like it
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 ...more
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 ...more
Keith Taylor
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Got to admit I love this book. I heard him read from it while it was in construction, so was ready to be bitten when it was finished. I'm a sucker for historical fiction, and this did not disappoint. Here's a thing I wrote a dozen years ago
Jun 26, 2007 rated it liked it
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, ...more
Sep 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
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
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.
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Good, though I saw little point to the Hess/Rotheram storyline.
Carl R.
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Danielle DeVane Wells
I have read quite a bit of WW2 fiction and I have NOT gotten a more real sense of the humanity of German POW's before this book. ( I tend to view the enemy as one dimensional :( and this challenged my perspective! (Growth happened!!)

One other aspect of this book that I enjoyed was the barrage of new information I was introduced to: sheep farming, the Welsh history and geography, POW's, a man's point of view.

This book follows three characters stories, in a linear fashion, two of which converge.
Caroline Mincks
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Please do not take my incredibly slow reading of this book as a comment on its readability. It is an excellent story from start to finish, one I have never quite heard before, told in a way I haven't quite seen before. I love how the style of it feels almost like a memory, like someone sitting beside you and telling it during one of those late-night conversations that feels endless in the best way. The characters all had such interesting layers to them, and the story did not go in directions I ...more
Clay Olmstead
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Not the usual war / romance story. More thought provoking than I expected. The standard views on belonging, courage and cowardice, freedom and captivity are upended and re-examined. Will keep thinking about this one for a while.
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.
Kate Snow
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Not quite 4 stars.
Interesting interweaving of several sub stories and characters from a range of backgrounds all connecting to Wales in World War II
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
Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Lana Del Slay
The Welsh Girl
Peter Ho Davies

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)
Apr 30, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is actually a story within a story...the Rudolf Hess narrative seems awkwardly tacked around the rest of the book. Clunky and superfluous, it really belonged to a separate tale. I guess it was trying to emphasize the perils of nationalism in leading to war, but I felt both plot lines would have benefited from standing on their own.
The main story of the Welsh girl and the men in her life brought a different aspect of WWII to light, showing that the Welsh natives did NOT consider
Kirsty Darbyshire
Dec 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.

Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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:
Beni Morse
Nov 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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Play Book Tag: The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies - 4 stars 3 9 Dec 22, 2019 09:31AM  
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
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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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