Gwag y Nos - Sioned Wyn Roberts
Reading age: 9+
Interest age: 9-14
You might not have even realised it, but we’ve needed a novel like this in Welsh for a long time on this subject. I hope this’ll be a popular choice with schools, especially with years 5&6 in mind. What better way of discovering about a certain period in history, than through a novel like this? Using the book as a focal point for an unit of thematic work on the Victorian period will provide rich possibilities to generate quality work and explore a fascinating topic.
Sometimes, it takes a few chapters to get ‘the feel’ of a book, and sometimes it just never happens. With Gwag y Nos, I was hooked right away (no mean feat as I’m fussy) with its hard-hitting prologue that doesn’t mince it’s words.
On a side note, the front cover is excellent and gets a high score from me, so well done @almon once again! It conveys the creepy qualities of the hell-on- earth which is Gwag y Nos workhouse (although I have to say I initially thought that it was a cemetery).
Sioned Wyn Roberts has undoubtedly created a masterpiece here, one which rivals Plentyn y Stryd, the Welsh adaptation of Street Child by Berlie Doherty (another classic Victorian novel, which is sadly out of print) In fact, this novel is actually more relevant to a Welsh context, and it’s clearly a story close to the author’s heart – she’s woven a fictional narrative around her real family history. Really interesting stuff.
Magi is the main character. She’s a young girl who finds herself in an unpleasant situation. Alone. In the workhouse. Living under the oppressive regime of Nyrs Jenat and Robat Wyllt. I’ll put my head on the block here, and say that Nurse Jenat is up there with some classic baddies from children’s literature – enough to make Ms.Trunchbull seem angelic! You can't help but admire Magi's rebellious determination and her bravery is admirable. You’re always on #TeamMagi although she’s not perfect either (just ask poor Elsi!)
When a prank goes awry in the workhouse, Magi is soon carted away to Plas Aberhiraeth to become a servant for a wealthy lady. Life in the workhouse may be horrific, but her new home isn’t much better, and the Plas soon becomes a prison of its own. There really is only one solution – escape!
Something very sinister is afoot in Gwag y Nos, and Magis is the only one that can put a stop to it! What’s Nurse Jenat trying to hide? Will Magi manage to reveal the secret and save her friends? Who’s even going to listen to a brat from the workhouse? These are but a few of the questions we have!
The characters and plot are spot-on. I don't want to say any more in case I spoil the story, but honestly, KS2 teachers– please choose this as your class novel.
Because of its slightly darker themes, I would say that this novel is more suitable for children aged 9+ (9-13 I saw somewhere) and although this is a children’s book per se, it can definitely be enjoyed by an older audience.