Read The Coward's Tale by Vanessa Gebbie Online


Nine-year-old Laddy Merridew, sent to live with his grandmother for reasons he does not understand, stumbles off the bus in a small Welsh town where he begins an unlikely friendship with old Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, the town beggar-storyteller. Through Ianto, Laddy learns of the collapse decades earlier of a coal mine called Kindly Light-a disaster whose legacy has echNine-year-old Laddy Merridew, sent to live with his grandmother for reasons he does not understand, stumbles off the bus in a small Welsh town where he begins an unlikely friendship with old Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, the town beggar-storyteller. Through Ianto, Laddy learns of the collapse decades earlier of a coal mine called Kindly Light-a disaster whose legacy has echoed through generations, shaping lives in unexpected ways. And while Ianto spins the lively stories of so many men and women in this town, it's his own history in Kindly Light that is the story he can't tell.Like Richard Llewellyn's beloved classic How Green Was My Valley, Vanessa Gebbie's The Coward's Tale richly evokes the tightly bound communities of old Welsh mining towns-their loyalties and betrayals, loves and losses. Like Llewellyn, Gebbie was brought up by Welsh parents in England. Unlike him, however, she took every opportunity to spend time in Wales throughout her formative years. Her sense of place is evoked with an authentic, dark beauty and a heightened, almost magical charm. Her prose is steeped in the cadences that surrounded her as a child. This rich tapestry of a novel is spellbinding and unforgettable....

Title : The Coward's Tale
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781608197729
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 359 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Coward's Tale Reviews

  • Tania
    2019-01-27 13:52

    I want to state first that the author is a friend of mine, but I didn't feel compelled to either review the book or to say what I am going to say. I finished The Coward's Tale this afternoon and I think it astonishing, one of the best books I have ever read, and I read a lot. It is a poem, it is stories, it is a novel, it's a song, it is about death, life, family, tragedy, history. It is about the power of story and the telling of stories and what that does for the individual, for the community, for those who have experience great loss and are trying to rebuild and move forward. For me it had echoes of the Holocaust. And the way it all came together was immensely powerful and, in my opinion, absolutely perfect. This is not just a book it is a literary achievement and I already know that I am not alone in thinking this.

  • Jenny
    2019-02-14 10:46

    I loved this novel. Reading it felt like being sung to very softly. It has such a striking voice, the present tense; the Welsh dialect; the impressively successful use of 'may's and 'might's all working together to conjure a convincing world and a fascinating tapestry of stories.The characters are wonderful and their stories, told by the beggar Ianto Jenkins, make us question the way we see people and remember that they all have stories to make them who they are. The Coward's Tale is a story about stories, capturing the spirit of the folk-tale and bathing it the detail allowed by good writing."There's lovely," I thought, as I finished the last page, wishing it were a phrase I could convincingly sneak into my ordinary speech.

  • Shannon
    2019-02-14 10:58

    If you would know why people are as they are, and why we must have kindness for ourselves and each other, read this book. It is profoundly good and satisfying. Vanessa Gebbie is the rare novelist who is as well a poet and philosopher. She tells her characters' stories with a natural lyricism and so vividly that although they are set in a small mining town in Wales, you will picture yourself among them, and of them.I can think of no better book to close my reading year than this one.

  • Sarah
    2019-02-03 12:01

    Pitch-perfect in its voices, warm and real in its characters, full of tender observation and generosity, this is a tale to take to your heart and hold there. Gebbie returns to her roots in Wales to weave this rare magic, conjuring a sense of place and time and people, which turns on its head the popular myth that Wales has no Great Writer in this modern age. It has, and it's her. In case you imagine you're in for a deathly serious literary saga, relax. It's funny, and kind, and genuinely enjoyable (and rewarding) to read.Parallels have been drawn elsewhere with Dylan Thomas and others, but Gebbie is a true original - you won't read another novel like this one, no matter how you search. That alone earns it a place in literary history.

  • MattandCathy Brandley
    2019-01-23 09:54

    An excellent read

  • Lily
    2019-02-12 09:04

    I’m writing this review having just finished this novel, which perhaps is more a collection of short stories woven together with one man’s guilt, shame and compassion. I’ve rarely felt so satisfied with an ending as I have with the ending of this novel. Sentimental maybe, but perfectly pitched. It brings ‘The Coward’s Tale’ full circle, revealing in a way only time can, how generations can impact each other in so many different ways. How events falling away from living memory can still have the power to shape the present and even the future. How we are so trapped within ourselves and yet have so much power to impact others in ways we may never know or see. I can’t describe my emotions upon finishing this novel. It’s brought me to a soft, sad place.Gebbie’s writing is vivid and beautiful in its description and emotion. Some may say it’s more telling than showing, but that works powerfully for this novel — a story weaving stories to hide another story that perhaps needs telling rather than showing. The voice of Ianto was strong all the way though, dipped lightly in Welsh dialect and warmth. Gebbie’s own Welsh roots shine throughout this novel. I read most of it with a very clear Welsh-accented head-voice, which was wonderful. The stories Ianto tells are all about the descendants of an old Welsh community, and how their problems, mysteries, pains, joys, fears and weaknesses are all somehow linked to a tragic coal mining accident three generations before. It’s told with a sense of distance, echoing old oral storytelling tradition. It’s rich in historical detail and the struggles of this community. I’m not sure what date the present is in, but I got a sense of somewhere in the 70s/80s, not quite present day, but with the harbinger of the miner’s strikes and nationwide end of the coal industry. My only criticisms of this novel is the strange use of future(?) tense in the present sections of narrative. For a good way into the novel, it was hard to get my head around whether something that ‘may/will/might’ happen, was actually happening or not. It didn’t feel necessary when present tense would have worked just as well, and my brain automatically assumed everything suggested as maybe happening was happening anyway. Having finished the book, I now see how this technique makes more sense, suggesting how the actions we ‘may’ choose to do or not do can have such a big impact on the future. For all the stories about the past impacting the present, I believe the future tense pulls this back into focus, saying the present is still affecting what’s yet to come in all its tiny details, coincidences, actions. However, I’m not sure the closure of that little realisation at the end is worth the confusion of the beginning. I also felt that some stories were too rushed, and some a little repetitive. There are several characters I’d have liked to have seen more of, including Laddy’s grandmother, who seemed missed out among the stories of everyone else, despite how important her grandson’s role in Ianto’s storytelling was. I also had a hard time trying to establish people’s ages in the present, especially Ianto himself. Until much later into the novel, I wasn’t aware that Ianto was old enough to remember all the people he told stories about (which also made it a little odd there was no story about Laddy’s grandmother as they are roughly the same generation in my head). However, there is so much I love about this book, and it’s sent my head reeling with thoughts and questions and unspeakable emotion. It’s a story that is emotionally dependant the readers’ own individual empathies, and my own story holds a lot of threads weaving back into the pasts of my own family’s previous generations. It’s not a book I’m going to easily forget.

  • Max Read
    2019-02-15 11:10

    “A timeless tale: ‘A watch with no hands’”Venessa Gebbie is from Welsh heritage, a British author living in Sussex. She is a journalist and short story writer and also teaches creative writing. “The Coward’s Tale” is Ms. Gebbie’s debut novel.“The Coward’s Tale” is a narrated work with distinctive Welsh expression and lilt. It is a well written compendium of chapters set out as short stories that form a continuum. The plot is set in the mining country of southern Wales and is a collection of tales that are told though reminisces of the town beggar, Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins.The collected stories tell the history of the town and trace three generations of townspeople; fathers, sons, daughters, wives and husbands all affected by the accident at the Kindly Light mine that claimed eighty five lives. For Ianto life begins each day on the stone bench on the porch of an unused chapel where he emerges daily to exchange his tales for food and coffee. As a young boy of only twelve, Ianto was forced to join the other coal miners at the Kindly Light mine when his father became too sick to work. On only his third day an explosion in the mine claimed the lives of a significant number of the miners, leaving Ianto to survive. Beset by superstitions long plied by the miners, Ianto announces he is a coward and that the tragedy was his entire fault and hence becomes the scapegoat for all the emotional horrors of the townsfolk. Now, as an old man in the sunset of his years, Ianto personifies a life spent in penance for his perceived weakness, the cause of the tragedy; however arguable that there was no causality to the events as they happened.Ianto’s stories all seem to contain some mystical significance where the “truth” of the events as they really happened becomes extraneous to the revelations of family significance and emotional personal truths. The stories told are inspired by the friendship between Ianto and Laddy Merridew, a red-haired nine-year-old who has just come to live with his grandmother. In an introduction steeped with symbolism, Laddy, weeps from the mockery of schoolboys calling him “stinker” because his clothes smell of mothballs, introduces himself to Ianto by saying, “My name is Laddy Merridew. I’m a cry-baby. I’m sorry.” Though Ianto does not stop walking or even look back at the boy, he responds, “And my name is Ianto Jenkins. I am a coward. And that’s worse.”Eliciting an emotional and thought provoking experience I would qualify the work as a most enjoyable novel and I highly recommend it for your reading list. I would rate it memorable.

  • Jill Rutherford
    2019-02-03 13:04

    I loved this book. I bought it because I had met Vanessa at some do I can't remember now, but also heard her talk about writing and that her publisher's had bought the rights to the book before she had finished it. But I had not yet taken the plunge; not invested my time.I bought a copy and started reading and thought, mmm, different. I read on a little and thought, mmm, but it has a distinctive voice – then I was into it and just loved its poetic, lyrical writing. The softly flowing dialogue, the image of a world I knew in my childhood. She has captured it with a lyrical lilt, a feather-light narrative that hooked me in like a friendly straightjacket.I couldn't put it down – this gentle story of the eccentric people of a South Wales mining valley of the past.It's Dylanesque in style and captured the atmosphere, the characters, the eccentricities I remembered as a child. I recommend this book highly for all readers who want more than a fluffy read, who like to work to get to the core: and once you do, the images remain with a satisfying pleasure.

  • Luciana Darce
    2019-02-09 11:49

    O tema desse mês para o Desafio Corujesco era ‘um livro, uma estação’. Depois de subir e descer a estante, dei-me conta de que o único livro que eu tinha com o nome de uma estação diretamente no título era Conto de Inverno, que já li e já resenhei aqui no blog (por sinal, tenho que retomar meu projeto Shakespeare…). Contudo, quando estávamos estabelecendo os temas do desafio para esse ano, deixei claro que a estação poderia estar implícita no livro, fosse no título ou na escolha da capa. Assim é que O Conto do Covarde saiu da prateleira para a leitura do desafio.Não me lembro agora como foi que me interessei por esse livro. Tenho impressão de que o título foi a primeira coisa que me chamou a atenção e algo também na capa - que certamente tem um ar bastante outonal. Ele passou bastante tempo na minha lista de desejados, até aparecer disponível para troca pelo Skoob. Dois anos desde que ele chegou por aqui, o desafio finalmente fez com que eu desse prioridade a ele (o que mais uma vez demonstra porque gosto tanto de cumprir esse tipo de desafio…).O Conto do Covarde começa com a chegada do jovem Laddy Merridew a uma cidadezinha no interior do País de Gales. Laddy foi enviado para passar uns tempos com a avó, enquanto seus pais passam por um complicado processo de separação. Sentindo-se deslocado naquele novo ambiente e dispensável pelas pessoas que o cercam, Laddy faz amizade com um velho mendigo e contador de histórias, Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, que pouco a pouco vai revelando as histórias da cidade e seus habitantes, marcados pela tragédia da mina de carvão Gentil Clara.Os capítulos se sucedem contando histórias independentes, numa narrativa que faz pensar um pouco em As Mil e Uma Noites. O ponto de encontro delas é o narrador, Ianto, e o fato de que todas estão ligadas às perdas e consequências do acidente da mina, duas gerações antes do início do livro. A morte de um avô, de um marido, de filhos e irmãos são os fantasmas que assombram a cidade, ela mesma em decadência, vivendo seus dias de outono. Contar suas histórias é exorcizar esses fantasmas, tentar fazer sentido da tragédia e da dor.Há algo de universal nas experiências de perda, culpa e trauma que entremeiam o livro. Não é difícil reconhecer nesses personagens pessoas de nossas próprias vidas, identificar ecos de nossas próprias experiências. E, ainda que alguns dos personagens lidem com o luto de formas que nos parecem absurdas… quem somos nós para julgar ou para dizer que não faríamos algo parecido no lugar deles?Considerando o tema pesado, é surpreendente que a narrativa da autora seja tão leve, tão delicada. Mesmo a mina de carvão tem um nome gracioso: “Gentil Clara”. Eis uma boa pista, pois O Conto do Covarde é um livro melancólico, mas incrivelmente poético. Ianto sabe como contar uma história, como transformar narrativas que poderiam parecer sombrias e até sórdidas em algo de contos de fadas. Há um ritmo em suas palavras - repetições, fórmulas de abertura, palavras que se encadeiam como uma canção - que me fez lembrar da minha infância, de ouvir ‘histórias de trancoso’ na calçada da casa de minha avó.Cheguei ao final do livro com os olhos marejados mas com a sensação de catarse que costuma acompanhar uma leitura emocional como essa. O Conto do Covarde é uma história sobre perdas, sim, e a culpa dos sobreviventes, mas é também sobre gentileza e solidariedade, sobre verdades pessoais, família e comunidade. Para ficar na memória.

  • Lorna
    2019-01-29 10:43

    As others have said it's a story of stories but it is also poetry, and for me, pure nostalgia. I grew up with these sort of people in a small Welsh mining community. I remember Id the gas and Id the barber; Tommy twicer and Llewelyn twice, Jonny Overcoat and many others. I remember the men returning home black, their boots ringing on the road home to bath in front of the fire, food boxes under one arm and a short length of pit prop under the other to be chopped for sticks to light the fire next morning. The pits are all gone and communities decimated with no work to be had anymore. This eloquently written book I will keep by me to re-read for the poetical written stories of a bygone era. Thank you for a wonderful read.

  • Samantha Penrose
    2019-01-19 14:42

    The book is essentially a town history spanning three generations. Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, the aged local beggar, shares his stories with anyone who will listen (and offer a toffee, sandwich, or hot coffee). Ianto explains, with compassion like no other, the eccentric behaviors and odd traditions of the towns people which, it turns out, all stem from the emotional fall out of a terrible mining accident three generations past. Ianto alone has been the curator of these powerful emotions through the years, observing from his bench outside of a disused church, how the wounds of each generation leave scars upon the next...

  • Champaign Public Library
    2019-01-24 15:47

    Recommendation from the Historical Fiction Genre Study, August 2017.This is a story about a town's history spanning three generations. Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, the beloved local beggar, recounts local history for anyone who will listen. Ianto explains, with compassion like no other, the eccentric behaviors of the town's people which, it turns out, all stem from the emotional fall out of a terrible mining accident three generations past.

  • Maggie
    2019-01-24 11:48

    A lovely little tale set in a coal mining town in Wales The story covers the relationship between a young bow staying with his grandmother while his parents go through a divorce and a beggar who lives in the porch of an abandoned chapel.

  • Bonnie ZoBell
    2019-02-18 15:43

    Vanessa Gebbie's Soulful SagaVanessa Gebbie has created a deep and passionate not to mention humorous story in her stunning debut novel, The Coward's Tale. Families and generations and individual tragedies are intermingled and come masterfully to life with her literary prowess. So beautiful and tender is her use of language that the name Dickens comes to mind. Gebbie deftly elicits an eerie and mysterious tone in this heart-wrenching tale. At the current time in the story, folks are still recovering from a tragic mining disaster at the Kindly Light Pit, which happened years ago. Many characters' lives are still shaped by this event, either because they were alive at the time and lost loved ones or because they had past family members who died.Take Eve Bartholomew, a woman who has lived alone with her mother, "a strange one," for many years and whose intended is killed in the accident only a few days before they are to be wed. Several evenings later, a neighbor sees Eve wander out to the garden in a soiled nightdress "even though it was not yet night." She clips "two ragged, late roses" from a thorny bush and doesn't respond to the neighbor who calls over to see if she is okay. That night she dresses in her wedding gown and veil, both of which she's been hand sewing in private for months. She walks through the hamlet with her ragged roses in her matrimonial regalia "and for the first time heard laughter in the air, and singing, and the voices of friends, and there were neighbors wishing her well." Poor Eve is the only one to hear these voices. She approaches the chapel, which has been prepared for the funerals of the miners the next day, steps into the darkened chapel, and sees and hears what she wants to. There is her betrothed, Edward Bartholomew, and they recite "For richer or poorer" and "until death us do part, as if that had not already happened." "Then she came out of the doors into the dark, as Eve Bartholomew, for that was her name now, was it not, if she had just married Edward Bartholomew?" The rest of her life up to the present is how she lives a haunting double life. We can only hope one built on fantasy is more real to her.However, there are signs all these years later that the town may finally be recovering from the mining collapse. For instance, of the three generations of Baker Bowens, only two actually bake. The present day Baker Bowen is still called that even though he's never been near a rolling pin in his life. Instead, he is a fixer of feet—townspeople limp down his hill with warts, bunions, corns, and worse. It was his grandfather, the original Baker Bowen, who was known for his baking finesse. This William was the first in the family to go into the business because his dear friend Benjie Lewis gave him enough money to buy an oven on his wedding day. As time goes by, though, we gradually understand that William has crossed Benjie in a very personal way, so badly that an black curse is visited on him. Only in the current time, three generations later, does Andrew Bowen, who never intended to cook but keeps his trays of foot instruments—"scissors and tweezers, files and pincers, blades and blade holders, picks and points"—in the old ovens find that there might be a possibility for his family's redemption. The mysterious Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins is the town historian and storyteller who weaves these generations of stories together—mysterious because he is also the town beggar and doesn't seem entirely right in the head. If someone will only give him a toffee, though, he will tell the folks in the village more of what they've come to hear: the history of themselves and their ancestors and Kindly Light. Eventually we learn what happened to him, too, what has made him the eerie and unfortunate character he is. His main listener and chronicler is a boy named Laddy Merridew, who has come to stay with his grandmother for a while. Through his unusual teacher, Ianto, he begins to learn far more about the trials and tribulations of human beings than he ever would have staying home with his overly pious granny. Gebbie's soulful rendering of this emotionally-tarnished hamlet brings it alive as a favorite character itself so that one can't help being pleased to see signs of rebirth after its overwhelming tragedy. The love and sympathy Gebbie has for her thoroughly complex and wonderful characters make it the tale it is. This is one of those glorious books that you look forward to coming home and reading every night, one that makes you very sorry when it's over.

  • Nancy Freund
    2019-02-16 14:01

    "Oh, there's lovely..." I haven't been exposed to enough of the Welsh dialect and mining town culture in my life, and now I feel I have a much better understanding of what I've been missing. In fact, I bought this book in print and in audio, so I could go back and forth, listening to the wonderful voice actor re-read scenes to me at night. So lyrical and such a pleasure. It felt like I got to be one of the players in this magical play, collar turned up against the chill, cinema queue down the street nearby, listening to the local lore.A bit like an 'Our Town' story of a place as much as the people who individually inhabit the place, I came to know and love many of these people I've now met through tales told by the local beggar/storyteller Ianto Jenkins. He is a kind soul in a town still struggling with an old mining accident at Kindly Light. Ianto was a boy himself when he was in this mining accident, but we don't learn this until well into the story. Now, as he weaves his tales for anyone who offers him a toffee or a sandwich, and often for his newly arrived young friend Laddy Merridew, we begin to suspect there may be as much detail suppressed as revealed. The stories begin to braid together and prove our suspicions true. And bit by bit, we begin to understand how Ianto Paeschendale Jenkins came to be known as "Paeschendale," which means "coward." It seems that he has taken ownership of this epithet as much as anyone else may have ever made an accusation of cowardliness. In fact, many of the town's people wear their nicknames like the truth of themselves, perhaps making their reputations their true stories after all. In this regard, the Welsh mining town feels very familiar -- any small town culture can define people's personalities in long-lasting ways. Like a wise, fully-integrated outsider, Ianto seems to have access to and an understanding of all of it, and the stories he tells are as universal as they are specific to this town. The fact that he repeatedly taps his broken watch with no hands, and that the town's clock also doesn't tell the time, suggests a timelessness and universality to the whole thing, the whole place. Even now I can feel the cool, darkness of being underground in the mine, I can smell the coal, I feel a bit trembly in the perceived presence of a strict father who wants the best for his son who's no good in school but expresses it cruelly. You just can't help but be inside this novel.Vanessa Gebbie has been described as a poet and songstress as well as a short story writer and novelist and creative writing instructor. All are certainly accurate. She weaves together a delicious opening, remarkably varied and poetic building stories, and ultimately a gorgeous ending. Unlike with many novels, I didn't see it coming. But when I read it, and when I listened to it in audio, I had to listen again.

  • Joanne
    2019-01-26 15:01

    I read the last few chapters of The Coward's Tale in bed this morning with the conflicting emotions I always get when coming to the end of a book I have come to love – joy at the unfolding and elegant culmination of the story journey I’ve been on, and sadness that there are no more pages left to turn.Vanessa Gebbie's book tells a seemingly simple, down-to-earth tale (within a series of interwoven tales) of Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, a beggar and story teller, who shares the history of Kindly Light, a Welsh mining village and its inhabitants with anyone willing to buy him a coffee or offer him a sweet. A young boy, Laddy Merridew comes to town to stay with his grandmother while his parents’ marriage goes through a rough patch, and he forms an unlikely friendship with the older man.What Ianto reveals are the quirky, humorous, tragic, and disturbing histories of the town’s families. Bit by bit we learn that each of Ianto’s stories involves an accident in the town’s coal mine, an accident which has cast a shadow over the town for decades. But the one story Ianto can’t tell is his own: the story of why he is called ‘Passchendaele,’ meaning ‘coward.’ A bright nine-year-old boy named Laddy soon befriends the mysterious beggar, and tries to get him to tell his story.There is a great sense of affection in this story. Ms. Gebbie obviously loves her characters and there is a great sense of humanity running through the book. None of the characters is perfect, but they are each redeemable and capable of much goodness. I loved the nicknames of the characters; each was so descriptive of its owner’s personality. There is Factual Phillips the librarian, Half Harris a mentally disabled man and Icarus Evans, the woodwork teacher whose aim was to carve a feather from wood so realistically that it would float like a real feather.The Coward’s Tale is a book filled with humor, whimsy and heartbreak and is a testament to the healing power generated when a community comes together. The ending is, perhaps, one of the most perfect of story endings I've ever honest, so right, so beautiful.

  • Felice
    2019-02-03 12:11

    I could not help myself. I read it anyway. The facts were right in front of me, I ignored them. I knew it was going to end in tears but I did it anyway. I have no one to blame but myself. When I look back I know what my downfall was. It was the cover. Look at it. It’s great isn’t it?In my defense I did not purchase this book. It was sent to me a gift. It was described by my friend as something she was positive that I would , “love and want to pass on!” She was half right. Would I have selected The Coward’s Tale if I had come across it at my local? I would certainly have picked it up to look at---that terrific cover remember? However I would have read the back of the book and I think then that I would have put it down. Whatever my friend. This is all speculation. I am not in procession of a Wayback Machine and I did read the book so I have to deal with it. The Coward’s Tale is about a boy who is sent away to live with his grandmother. The boy becomes friends “with the town’s begger-storyteller” who regales him with the town’s “lore”. I kid you not. That is what happens in the novel and that is how the publisher describes it. In that casual, every town has one sort of way. I’m not sure that we have a beggar-storyteller in my town but then again we have downsized since the economy collapsed a couple years ago. Our beggar-storyteller may have been forced to take early retirement or a new position in the highway department. So the author of The Coward’s Tale is Vanessa Gebbie. She is an accomplished author with two published short story collections to her credit. Oh no let me correct that. Vanessa Gebbie is the author of three published short story collections. The cover of The Coward’s Tale may proclaim that it is “a novel” but don’t you believe it. The Coward’s Tale is a short story collection using that old The Town’s Beggar-Storyteller as a sloppy device that enables Gebbie (and her editor)to string short stories together and pretend that this is a novel.Let my foolishness be a lesson to you.

  • Reid
    2019-01-29 10:04

    Ianto Jenkins, he will tell you, is a coward. This beautiful novel teaches us that he is much more than that. He is a beggar, homeless, without family or friends, and, most important of all, the repository of all the stories of his little town. And in the final assessment, a man of great courage.This small Welch town made its living for generations from the local coal mine, Kindly Light. But as with all such mines, there was a much heartbreak mined there as there was coal, if not more. And Ianto Jenkins knows all about this, as well as playing a central role in one of the worst accidents in the history of the mine.The structure of the novel is interwoven tales of the most prominent members of the community (prominent in their narrative importance, not necessarily within the hierarchy of the town), framed by a through-narrative about Ianto Jenkins and many other residents, in particular a disaffected, abandoned, confused ten-year-old boy named Laddy Merridew.This is a difficult book to describe beyond what I have already written, though, because like so much great literature, the joy is in the reading, in discovering the characters and their foibles, their histories, their interconnections and, most sweetly, how they can change and grow in kindness and care for each other. There is a somewhat ethereal feel to the book, and a certain ancientness, although the book is set in contemporary time. Cars, for instance, and phones play only the smallest part here and seem foreign to this world when they do. Not that this is explicitly stated, but there seems to have been a conscious decision made by the author that these people in this town were of the old times, when communication between people was face-to-face, and the way between one place and another was on foot or, at the most advanced, on a bicycle.This book found a soft place in my heart and I will treasure its presence there. I suspect you would, too.

  • Kyra
    2019-02-19 15:56

    63/52We have to discover other people's stories to truly understand the person who they've become today. Their strange habits, what ticks them off, their life choices even. And often a story doesn't start with the person living it, but decades earlier, with something that happend to a grandparent and trickles down through generations. In the little Welsch mining town of old Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins - beggar, storyteller, toffee-lover, a coffee with two sugars, please - the collapse of the old Kindly Light and the death that came with it had such an impact on the townspeople, it can still be felt decades later. Ianto was just a kid in boots that were too big for him back then. But luckily for the people waiting in line for the town's cinema, it's always time for a story on Ianto's watch with no hands. As far as stories go, I thought The Coward's Tale was lovely. It shows that even the behaviour of the oddest of people can seem totally normal once you know what drives them, making this a story of discovery and compassion. Through the eyes of Ianto, I fell in love with the quaint characters and understanding people of the town. This book is also wonderfully written, very lyrical and with heaps of character. There is a downside to that, hence the -1, and that is that it's not really a book to get lost in. Like Ianto tells his stories one at a time, I usually put my book away after a story was finished. Just to let it sink in, but also because I didn't feel compelled to dive into the next. I don't think it took me this long to finish a book this short in quite some time. That's not a bad thing per se, but I prefer books I can read in ridiculously long sittings.

  • Dora
    2019-02-12 09:00

    First I want a state I became friends with Vanessa online after I read some of her stories. When I heard she had written a book I was instantly excited and intrigued. I was lucky enough to win a copy which I couldn’t wait to read. I was not disappointed in the least. Her writing drew me right in; the Welsh mining town felt so real, as if I was walking in its streets, meeting the town’s inhabitants and their strange rituals. Soon I was listening to the town’s outcast, Ianto Jenkins, whose tales give us a glimpse of the town’s past and the tragedy that affects them all, and of the young boy he befriends who is inexplicably tied to him. The stories are very moving and poetic, with many wonderful turns of phrases that stopped me in my tracks. In parts i found myself so moved, I had tears in my eyes. I don't know about you but i want to have an experience when i read, i want to be surprised and enchanted (you'll see what i mean after you've read it!). Words by themselves are nothing if they don't elicit an emotion in the reader. Why read then? At least that’s how i feel. "The Cowards Tale" is not structured as a traditional novel but as a collection of stories that only add layers to the complexity of the novel’s themes. Yet the writing is light and airy and is not ponderous at all. I suggest you take your time reading it. You can't rush through it - its the type of book you want to read over and over again just to experience it again! i love it and cant wait to read the sequel

  • Karen
    2019-01-21 09:06

    The Coward’s Tale took me quite a long time to read, and not for any negative reasons. It is a rich book, precisely written, and full of poetic and apt description. Its presentation of characters is warm and completely without judgement. It never once flags or loses its way, and so deserves to be read with care. It is set in a former mining town in Wales, and explores the tragic legacy of an accident that happened in the Kindly Light pit. The stories of the town’s surviving inhabitants, idiosyncratic, semi-mythical and shot through with almost unbearable sadness, are related by Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, a beggar who sleeps on the steps of the town chapel. His stories are gobbled up by Laddy Merridew, a young boy who has been sent to live in the town with his gran while his parents are having problems.The novel is (perfectly) structured around these stories, which Ianto will tell to Laddy and any other curious bystanders if they provide him with food (mainly toffees) and drink (coffee with two sugars). At the beginning of each story, I felt I needed to settle down in a comfy place with a big cup of tea and give it my full attention, because I was going to be in for a cracking (but heartbreaking) journey each time. In the interludes between stories, we find out some of what goes on in the present-day town, and learn Ianto Jenkins’s own sad story. Essentially, The Coward’s Tale is, like the feathers that one of characters keeps trying to make out of wood shavings (for his own important reasons), beautifully crafted, fragile and special.

  • Victoria Watson
    2019-01-29 13:04

    What an original read this is.‘The Coward’s Tale’ features Laddy Merridew, a young boy sent to a small Welsh mining village to live with his grandmother, who forges an unlikely friendship with the town beggar, the eccentric Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins. Through Ianto’s stories, Laddy learns more and more about the village and its inhabitants, and the disaster that shaped the community.I love Ianto’s benevolent omnipotence, he knows everything about everyone and is willing to tell it just for a little human kindness. Each of Ianto’s stories, about different residents of Kindly Light, are poetic and unique.The rhythm and cadence in Vanessa Gebbie’s writing is beautiful, she spins an old-fashioned yarn that absolutely embodies the village of Kindly Light. Her exploration of village life, how grudges are carried down the generations and secrets hidden is really original. Gebbie captures an array of characters and explores people’s’ good and bad sides.In ‘The Coward’s Tale’ there is many different stories, each interlinking with the next. Each individual character’s story is different but linked by a tragedy that haunts the village. Gebbie manages to make her stories funny, sad and uplifting – no mean feat.‘The Coward’s Tale’ is a story that anyone – of any age – will enjoy

  • Michael Logan
    2019-02-14 12:01

    Gebbie has long been an author with that elusive touch of bringing achingly human stories to life, and she carries on that tradition in this, her first novel.It isn't a book to be read in one big gulp. Rather, with its focus on the stories of an array of characters affected by the Kindly Light pit disaster generations before, it can be taken in small chunks, with each mouthful to be savoured and reflected upon.I don't want to give too much away, but suffice to say that what seems at first to be a collection of disparate stories linked by a common thread comes together beautifully at the end with the resolution of the tale of Ianto Jenkins, the beggar and coward of the title.If you read and enjoyed Notwithstanding, this is perhaps in a similar vein, focusing as it does on the stories of a small village's residents. But while Notwithstanding is full of wit and whimsy, Gebbie's creation is deeper and more poignant, and will resonate far longer than de Bernieres still-beautiful book.All-in-all, The Coward's Tale is the work of an author completely in control, and Gebbie - who has been a favorite of the literati for many years - deserves to take a step into wider acknowledgement for this deft work.

  • Linda Rollins
    2019-02-11 09:56

    A Welsh mining town suffers a tragic accident many years previously and this story follows the descendants of those involved and how their lives are still impacted, down the generations, by the tragedy. Ianto Passchendale Jenkins is the town beggar and storyteller who spends his time recounting tales around the people of the town, their families and how they became who they are today.The story is relatively slow-paced where nothing much happens except for the back-stories of the people.I couldn't help reading this book with a bit of a Welsh lilt - I think it's necessary. The writing is quite a work of art - beautiful in describing the mundane, so clever. I did find the use of the present tense quite tiring to read. However, reading the book felt like stroking petals on a delicate flower - the words so fragile, yet able to describe people and situations so powerfully.The writing is very pretty and prosaic, but it does mean that it takes a long time to say not very much.Overall, though, a well-crafted and unusual read.

  • Diane
    2019-01-22 12:54

    I'm feeling beset by twinsets lately. Read two books in a row that featured teen protagonists with serious breathing problems, then watched two movies in a row that featured men paralyzed from the neck down who used a mouth thingee to turn the pages of books, and now I've read another pair of similar books by prize-winning British authors who focus on poor, dour, miserable towns (the other was called Fludd). This one seems to take a page from the Canterbury Tales, although instead of moving through the countryside, all stories revolve around a single event: a mining disaster that happened two generations ago. Which is only the structure, so it might have worked - but the accumulated stories are so - well - the British word would probably be treacly. Levels of sticky sentiment I found it hard to appreciate. Wins prizes in Britain tho. And yet they make such good PBS films! Maybe I'm just not reading the right British authors.

  • James
    2019-01-28 13:00

    While I must firstly state that Vanessa is a pal, I finally got round to reading 'The Coward's Tale', and it really moved me deeply. It is a gripping, sad yet very human book, taking the reader into the world of a close-knit Welsh community. It could be anywhere. It could be the small village in East Anglia I grew up in. Ianto Jenkins is the everyman narrator, searing his bruised wisdom and pain inside you with every breath and tale he tells, outside the cinema with a toffee in his pocket.I rate this highly. I read it on holiday in the Algarve, which is a million miles from the books setting, and I was glad of the distractions away from the story sometimes. There are shades of Iris Murdoch here, and of course Dylan Thomas's 'Under Milkwood'. Here the superlatives must stop. I urge everyone, big City dweller or rural farmer alike - read this book. It is an urgent, vibrant tale of tales.

  • Michelle Scowcroft
    2019-02-04 16:47

    The Coward's Tale is a beautifully written story by the talented Vanessa Gebbie. It is a complete story as well as a collection of shorter stories centred around the (so called) coward, Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins. The novel can be read in two ways: by popping into individual chapters or sections,or it can be read right through as a complete story. The language, Gebbie employs, in the dialogue and in description is melodious;it is full of rhythm, movement and pattern of sound. The story has layers of depth; it not only a cultural history of a time and place in Wales but also a poignant account of human character. This novel is an example of how to combine both the creative art as well as the fine craft of writing in one piece. Additionally, this book is worth re-reading because, with closer inspection, other aspects such as symbolism come to light. It is a wholesome, humorous and heartening read.

  • Alison Wells
    2019-02-05 17:12

    I know this author from Twitter but I read the book on it's own merits. It's a beautiful book that made me hold my breath on occasion. The prose is astonishingly lovely, there are single lines that can stop you in your tracks. Weaved around the coal mining tragedy of Kindly Light, the stories tell of its legacy many years later. But these aren't stories on a grand scale, they are molecular and particular. We see how a word, a gesture, a decision, something said or unsaid, a hand placed or not, altered the trajectory of lives. It is not a traditional novel with a sharp arrowed plot but it is a story about stories and the story of how lives unfold. It is like taking a slow walk while paying attention and thus discovering treasures. I highly recommend it and must say it was one of my very favourite reads in 2012(less)

  • Caroline Maldonado
    2019-01-29 17:09

    An original novel, and wonderful! The tale of a community. Individual life stories weave round each other like the streams and the wind weave round the Welsh village, home to the Kindly Light mine, whose tragedy has left its stamp on every family. Revelations are uncovered, more often than not with roots in generations past. We enter the inhabitants’ lives, the complexities of their relationships, details of the domestic activities that ground them, as well as their dreams. We begin to understand their peculiarities -- only peculiar until we know their reasons. Questions about them are raised and answered, although maybe some questions are never answered. The voice is Welsh, demotic and poetic, often humorous and sometimes, for example in the final pages, visionary.

  • Beverly
    2019-02-18 09:11

    I thought this was an extraordinary piece of work. I had no idea where it was going, in the beginning. Not your usual (run of the mill) opening. Instead, it slowly leads you into the life of an entire village told in interacting 'tales' by a compelling story teller. There is no way to liken it to anything as it is creative, touching, poetic, funny, endearing, heartbreaking and deeply thoughtful and intelligent. The syntax becomes a heartbeat of the time and the people, beating in your own chest. It's an extraordinary piece of work.For those that get stopped by the initial density of language and lack of formulaic novel form, let me persuade you to just keep reading. You won't be sorry.