A WRITER’S HOUSE IN WALES by Jan Morris

A WRITER’S HOUSE IN WALES

KIRKUS REVIEW

Novelist, biographer, and travel-writer Morris (Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere, p. 1006, etc.) describes her rustic Welsh home and endeavors to define and celebrate Welsh history, geography, personalities, and Weltanschauung.

Morris has lived for years in what was once a stone stable in a remote area of the remote principality of Wales. She and her partner Elizabeth (the woman Morris married years ago when she was James Morris) converted the building into a cozy home cum library that houses some 8,000 volumes and provides Morris with the resources for her writing and the stability she craves. She calls the house Trefan Morys (partly for the name of the estate to which the building once belonged, partly for the Welsh spelling of her surname). In four swift chapters, Morris composes a love-letter to Wales and to the people who live there—and, of course, to her own home. She writes passionately about the rugged landscape and its sturdy inhabitants and rues the steady incursions of “the dross of television and advertising, drugs, crime, general dumbing-down and sheer ordinariness.” She celebrates the centrality of the kitchen in Welsh homes and culture and praises her neighbors for their reliability and tolerance (she says that they simply pretend her 1972 sex-change operation never happened). Morris teaches us about the meaning of traditional Welsh symbols (the red dragon), about the significance of historical figures (Lloyd George pops in and out like an indecisive guest), and even speculates that America’s Mandan Indians have Welsh ancestry. She does not miss many opportunities to credit the Welsh—but she does miss two: She mentions Lawrence of Arabia without noting he was born in Wales and tells us a bit about Porthmadog without commenting on the nearby Great Embankment that enthralled Percy Bysshe Shelley. Morris is at her best when she examines how Wales has grounded her writing and has at the same time helped her appreciate the mysteries and marvels of the world.

Occasionally predictable, often lyrical, always intriguing. (1 map, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7922-6523-8
Page count: 168pp
Publisher: National Geographic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2001




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