Dyddiau Cŵn - Gwen Redvers Jones
*For Welsh review, see language toggle switch on top of webpage*
♥ Tir na n-Og Award Winner 1998♥
Audience: #youngadult #teen
Genre: #fiction #WelshOriginal
REVIEW BY REBECCA ROBERTS
I came across a copy of 'Dyddiau Cŵn' in Siop Clwyd and it felt as if I was greeting an old friend I hadn't seen since high school. That wasn't far from the truth – I first read ‘Dyddiau Cŵn’ in high school, and remember it as one of the few Welsh novels I really enjoyed. At that time many novel covers were cartoonish, and looked rather 'young' for a teenager. But there was something about the cover of ‘Dyddiau Cŵn’ that compelled me to pick up the book. There was a naked man on the first page! Not a picture, obviously, but a description. A promising start, to a hormone-filled teenager! I enjoyed ‘Dyddiau Cŵn’ enough to pick it up again some twenty(ish) years later for a nostalgic trip into the past.
This is the story of Sera, an eighteen-year-old living at home with her parents. She meets Dan, a young and handsome traveller, and immediately falls in love with him. This leads to a conflict between parents and daughter, and Sera leaves the nest to travel Wales with Dan and his friends, who are also travellers determined to live a 'free' life.
The tension of the novel comes from the conflict between Sera's traditional upbringing and Dad's desire to be free from society's expectations – free from the responsibility of paying rent and tax, and to love freely, without commitment or responsibility. The strength of the story is that Gwen Redvers Jones does not preach or present a single character as a 'good' or 'bad' character. Dan is portrayed as seductive and charismatic on one hand, but incredibly selfish at other times. At the end of the novel Sera faces a difficult, fateful decision about how best to live her life. I won't reveal the ending, except to say that the message is a positive one about self-determination and independence that remains relevant to this day.
How has the novel aged? In one way, it was nice to be reminded of a pre-internet era, before mobile phones took over (the novel was published in 1996). On the other hand, aspects of the novel, particularly the pearl clutching and Sera's mother’s priggish approach to 'hipis' seem ridiculously old-fashioned. I guess she would have been seen as overprotective and snobbish even when the novel was published - at times it felt as if the family's rules and attitudes dated from the fifties! Neither did the conflict between Sera and her parents ring completely true – Sera was far too immature and childish for a young eighteen year old ready to head off to college or university.
The best thing about the story was the portrayal of Dan's friends, the travellers, and their lifestyle. Fleshed-out and vivid characters, all of them - and the dialect! At times it felt as if I was listening to a radio play, so alive were the voices.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Sera's time with the band of travellers, and it was great to watch her mature and become more independent after being taken under the wing of some of the older female characters.
Although this novel is about a young woman's first sexual relationship and contains a few references to drug use, there is an innocence to it that makes it suitable for young teens. Because of that naivety it might not appeal as much to today's youth, but there is a nostalgic pleasure to be had from re-visiting the nineties within the covers of a book.