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Reading Age: 11+
Interest age: 11+
Genre: #fiction #dysoptian #environment #adventure
New 'Best of the Best' Series
Sound familiar? It should do, because ‘O’r Tywyllwch’ [from the darkness] was originally published in 1991. You may remember seeing it from on the bookshelf years ago, or this may have even been your weekly reading book at school.
The first three volumes in the ‘Gorau’r Goreuon’ series are out. These have all been given a modern re-vamp, to ensure they look fresh and appealing for today’s readers. After all, people have quite high expectations nowadays! They’ve all had specially commissioned updated covers, and are a huge improvement on the originals.
Are we always looking for something new?
They say a good story doesn't age. And to an extent, that’s true. But books certainly do age. Some better than others. One thing’s for sure, they can definitely be forgotten. This is probably what happened in the case of O'r Tywyllwch by Mair Wynn Hughes. Just a year ago, you’d have struggled to get hold a copy of the original version, except for that one second-hand copy on ebay for over a £100!
And this is not a problem confined to this particular book. There are hundreds of good novels, well worth reading, that are out of print and have long been forgotten. In the mainstream British publishing world, many old books are still widely available and in print. Many are considered classics. I’m talking about your Christmas Carols, Black Beauties, Charlotte's Webs, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe etc.
In England, they still seem to value older books, but in Wales, many of our ‘classics’ are gathering dust on charity shop shelves, school storerooms or even worse, the landfill. The reason why? A total lack of awareness of books from days gone by.
Do we show enough appreciation for the children's literature of days gone by (with the exception of T. Llew Jones, of course) or are we too quick to forget? This raises another question - do Welsh books for children get enough attention in general?
Is re-publishing the answer?
There’s always two points of view. Some will say that it’s foolish to look back at what has already been. You could say that it’s all in the past and that republishing books is lazy, simply because we are bereft of ideas. What a ridiculous thing to say!
I think it's important to have plenty of choice and diversity. There’s definitely room for a balance between old and new. A good story is a good story in my opinion, and there are far too many good Welsh language books 'out of print' and unavailable. That's why I welcome the shameless nostalgia of ‘Gorau’r Goreuon’ and wish it the very best. Maybe I am a bit biased.
Of course, not all books are suitable for re-publication. Some are horrendously dated and contain views and stereotypes that are totally unsuitable today.
Having said that, there are plenty of lost treasures out there, just waiting to be introduced to a new generation. Some old stories fully deserve to be considered 'classics' and are still very relevant to us today, with ‘O’r Tywyllwch’ being a very good example of this.
Manon Steffan Ros’s Review
This story actually needed very little changing or updating, which is a testament to the standard of the original. A few months ago, Manon Steffan Ros tweeted about the original book after she re-discovered it by chance, and she was kind enough to write us a review at the time. As the actual story is more or less the same as the original, here is an extract from her review:
I don’t know how on earth I forgot about this novel, because honestly, it's great.
I'm a big fan of Sci-Fi books and especially of dystopian novels, but I often feel they can be too busy, with too much happening and the characters fall rather flat. O’r Tywyllwch isn't like this at all- the first thing to draw you in is the friendship between the two main characters, Hywyn and Meilyr. They live in our world, but, perhaps a future one. The earth has warmed, and you have to wear special suits before venturing outside. Big plans are afoot- everyone will have to go and live in a special city in the mountains, and shut out fresh air and the outside world forever. Not everyone wants to go, but they have no choice. This is the start of the tension in the story.
There’s also a second part to the story, about the experience of living in the underground city generations after the great migration. I was frightened by this part, because this new nightmarish world felt so real. A few parts of it felt like the world in George Orwell's famous novel, 1984- but for me, O’r Tywyllwch is more personal, more familiar, and thus a hundred times more shocking.
I’m doing my best not to drop spoilers here, but I think the ending might feel too vague for some. For me, I like the fact that the novel doesn't finish with a definitive answer to each question. In fact, the ending feels like a challenge for us, the reader – What are we going to do next as the world gets hotter?