There is so much vigor and aptness in this Welsh-mining-town domestic drama that its aggressively free-form style--sentence fragments, floating dialogues, unheralded flashbacks--is often worth the grapple. Often, not always. Certainly it's worth deciphering that miner Ben, out of love with wife Rachel, has a ""bit of spare"" in his brother Lew's dark-skinned wife Melody (""Lovely woman that nigger"") and feels guilty; otherwise, one can't enjoy Ben's defensive, scrappy back-and-forths with a God he doesn't believe in: ""I am waiting for Melody O my Lord. She have promised to come."" / ""You are a soft bugger O my Lamb. . . She is your brother's wife."" And it's worth the effort to understand Ben's uneasy relationship with his brain-damaged daughter Miriam, his distance from Rachel, and his thrill at Melody's escape from Lew--just to be able to appreciate his ironic aloneness when Rachel and Miriam die in a fire and Melody returns to her husband. But the dank atmospherics--the mine, the pool hall, the loose barmaid, the endless rain--don't have the emotional substance to warrant the web of self-conscious wordings, and they occupy far too much time and space. So, despite Hughes' splendid ear for pub-and-street speech rhythms (not the oft-overdone dialect variety) and the brief spells when feeling and language are accomplices rather than rivals, this remains a work to admire rather than read--demanding mining with modest, off-and-on rewards.