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Book review: Tua’r Gorwel by Eirlys Wyn Jones

28 Apr 2024 4 minute read
Tua’r Gorwel by Eirlys Wyn Jones is published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch

Rebecca Roberts

Tua’r Gorwel is the sequel to Wyn Jones’ 2021 historical novel, Tu ôl i’r Llenni, which followed the lives of young housewives in rural north Wales during the Second World War.

Tu ôl i’r Llenni ended on a real cliff-hanger, which meant that I was greatly looking forward to getting my hands on the second instalment to find out what happened to main characters Mair and Gladys.

While Tu ôl i’r Llenni (which translates as ‘Behind the Curtains’) captures the isolation, difficulties and claustrophobia of life behind the blackout curtains, Tua’r Gorwel (‘Towards the Horizon’) is aptly named as it deals with how the ensemble of characters reunite at the war’s end and face a future very different from the one they envisioned.

Fatigue and disappointment are central themes. Mair’s husband Ifan suffers from what would probably be diagnosed with PTSD following his experiences fighting in Italy.


Mair, the steadfast and admirable heroine of Tu ôl i’r Llenni, attempts to give him the hero’s welcome he deserves; but after nearly half a decade apart they are virtual strangers and their young son (whom Ifan has never met) does not welcome this strange man’s intrusion into his life.

Mair tries her very best to help Ifan overcome his trauma, but after five years as a single mother struggling to make ends meet and facing the various threats and injustices of the first novel she too is weary beyond belief, and even a change of scenery cannot help them rekindle the affection that brought them together.

One of the most striking things about Tua’r Gorwel is its realism. The stakes are low, the drama is subdued, but we’ve come to know Mair over the course of two novels and to admire her gentle cheer in the face of grinding drudgery and uncertainty.

When Ifan returns home we’re utterly invested in the slow burn of their relationship, crossing our fingers and toes that Ifan can heal and regain a semblance of his former self and become a loving husband and father.

Small negotiations

It’s a story of many small negotiations, victories and disappointments – one moment that stayed vividly with me was Mair sitting in their shed, covered with the blood and feathers of their Christmas dinner, struggling to overcome her revulsion at having to disembowel a duck because Ifan refused to drag himself out of bed to perform the one task required of him in preparation for the festivities.

The author, a farmer’s wife, has a real knack for conjuring up the beauty and the danger of the natural world and depicting its effect on characters in a fresh and lyrical way. Isolation and depression are symbolised by chilling winter mists; characters find solace in the warmth of the sun and a pillow of heather.

It’s a beautifully observant novel, at its best when Eirlys Wyn Jones uses her knowledge of nature and agriculture to colour the character’s inner lives.

I believe some elements of the story were based upon the author’s own family history, and this is the novel’s real strength – the characters and their situations feel totally believable and true to the period.


The ‘method’ of coping with PTSD and depression and the general mistrust of doctors for mental health problems, for example, fits pretty neatly with my own family’s recollections of how things were at the time.

The cliffhanger I referred to earlier related to Gladys, Mair’s best friend, was solved by a convenient deus ex machina at the start of the novel, effectively reintroducing her with a clean page.

A tad frustrating when I’d looked forward to seeing how she would try to worm her way out of a self-induced predicament; but I found the character of Gladys frustrating in general.

The storyteller in me felt she had greater dramatic potential, and I wanted her to have some redeeming moment or significant character growth. However, although I was initially surprised at the turn of events, Gladys’ behaviour was entirely consistent with her previous actions.

In retrospect, her fate was entirely fitting.

In quiet moments I imagine how life played out for Mair, Ifan, Gladys and her feckless husband. That’s how real the characters feel to me. I read the book a month ago, and I think about them still.

Tua’r Gorwel by Eirlys Wyn Jones is published by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch and can be purchased here.

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