Review 2146: Country Dance

In the mid-19th century, Ann Goodman is a young woman whose shepherd father is English and whose mother is Welsh. At the beginning of this novella, Ann lives in Wales near the English border. Although she speaks and understands Welsh, she’s been raised by her father to despise the Welsh. She is promised to Gabriel Ford, an English shepherd who is jealous of her.

Ann has been living with her cousins for 15 years when her father summons her to the English side of the border to help care for her ailing mother. At that time, Gabriel gives her a journal so she can write what she is doing and he can check up on her. Ann faithfully records her life, giving us great insight into farm life at the time.

Ann’s father works for a Welsh farmer, Evan ap Evans. Evans begins to pay attention to her, but she avoids him or is rude to him and says she hates Welshmen. When Gabriel comes to visit her, Evans speaks an endearment to her in Welsh, which makes Gabriel break up with her.

After her mother’s death, her father sends her back again to her cousins—in fact, never shows her any affection—and Gabriel attempts to court her. But Ann is angry that he wouldn’t take her word that nothing was going on with Evans, and also that when Evans tried to put things right, Gabriel attacked him.

As Ann relates her everyday activities, a feeling of dread grows in the reader. It’s no surprise to us that things go badly wrong, because the Introduction tells us so. But Evans, the author not the shepherd, gives this simple story depth by bringing in Ann’s ambivalence about her Welsh/English mixed heritage. This is a deceptively simple, sparely written story that I enjoyed reading for this month’s Reading Wales

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11 thoughts on “Review 2146: Country Dance

  1. This sounds like an interesting choice for Reading Wales. I haven’t had time to read any Welsh books this month unfortunately, but I’ll keep this one in mind for next year.

  2. I didn’t know about Reading Wales. Maybe I will remember for next year!

    Thanks for sharing your review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

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