The Welsh Girl, by Peter Ho Davies is an exceptional novel that takes place during World War II. It is both poignant and a love story, yet it has its mystery and intrigue, also.
The setting takes place in a village in the mountains of Wales, where Esther Evans and her farmer father live. The story explores the relationship between land and sheep, shepherd, farmer and sheep, and the intuitive and innate qualities of man and animal, not only to each other, but to the environment.
Esther falls in love with a young German Corporal by the name of Karsten Simmering. Think about the definition of the word “simmering“, because the meaning of his surname is a vital part of his character. I won’t say more, as I will end up divulging too much.
One thing I like about The Welsh Girl is Davies‘ use of analogy and symbolism. Starting with the word “Welsh”, which is in the title, it doesn’t only describe or suggest a location, language or the country of Wales. The word also means “to cheat someone or not pay a debt“, and it can mean “to renege or to break one’s word“. Language is an important aspect within the book.
The novel leads one to ponder many things. What is one’s word, promise or oath? During war people say and do things that they might not ordinarily do. War breeds love and loss, and breeds so many other things within its circumstances and environments. From sheep farming, Rudolph Hess, a German Jew, Welsh pubs, a German POW camp, a German Corporal, and so much more, The “Welsh Girl” pulls it all within its pages.
Davies handles all of this in a well-articulated novel of war and love, loss, redemption and identity. He brings factual elements of history into The Welsh Girl, and brings a sensitivity to the characters, whether they deserve it or not. His brilliance in sweeping out the good and evil within people is insightful.
Davies brings us a sweeping saga of love, loss and redemption under the harsh events of World War II. Bravo to Peter Ho Davies for an excellent story that is filled with detailed word imagery filling all of our senses!