James Hanley: The Welsh Sonata
If you had shown me this novel without telling me who the author was, I would have been more likely to guess Dylan Thomas than James Hanley. But James Hanley it is, writing a Welsh, DylanThomasesque novel. Rhys the Wound – so called because he had a wound in his head which he has covered up with a growth of hair that looks like a cloud, so he is also called Rhys the Cloud. Rhys is really a tramp. He wanders round the area and is well-liked, particularly by the local children. However, at the start of the novel he has disappeared and no-one knows where. Goronwy Jones, the local policeman who also fancies himself as story-teller, sets out to find Rhys. The novel is the three reports he prepares and they are not your typical police report. Indeed, the reports are a fascinating, poetic, amusing, colourful, well-written account of Goronwy’s wanderings around the area and, more particularly, the fascinating people he meets and the stories they have to tell. From the old schoolmaster Sir Flook to the tragic miner’s widow, Mrs. Parry, whose son drowned, Hanley gives us a whole host of characters with their tales to tell and their very own woes and miseries. It is a thoroughly enjoyable tale, even if the ending is sad, but not one we would expect from Hanley.
First published 1954 by Derek Verschoyle