During my research on the Welsh revival of 1904/1905 I came across two novels.
- Queen of the Rushes by Allen Raine &
- The Withered Root by Rhys Davies
How I enjoyed reading these books and if I wasn’t a Christian I would quite happily have read them and put them down and thought no more of it. However, as a Christian it was with heavy heart that I read stories about revival that were both written from a non-Christian POV. Davies openly declared himself an atheist whilst Raine states that although not against the chapel itself she was very suspicious of the revival.
So here are my reviews…
The Withered Root by Rhys Davies
This book caused mixed emotions for me. On the one hand I think it deserves five stars and on the other hand only one star, so I went for three.
The beginning of the book had me chuckling out loud quite a few times, especially over the conversations between Reuben’s parents. I loved how the writing reflected the way the Welsh talk and I loved the detail in which you can practically ‘see’ the old valleys in and around 1904/1905. It is also superbly written with beautiful flowing, almost poetical language.
The downside for me was twofold. One was the author’s obvious dislike of women made blatantly obvious by his lack of even a single woman having any virtue or a good character, every woman doing nothing but flaunting her femininity in a derogative way. The other was in his portrayal of fanatical and shallow Christians. I found the second half of the book dark and depressing and was quite frankly glad to turn the last page.
For research into the Welsh revival this is worth a read. For the beauty of the writing this is definitely worth a read. For its portrayal of women or Christians if you’re easily offended I would give this a miss.
Queen of the Rushes
I loved this book by this not so well remembered lady Anne Evans, pseudonym Allen Raine. Her characterisation is vivid and authentic, her settings skilful and poetic and her portrayal of women so much more realistic than Davies. Writing about a time in which she lived she is able to capture the rift in status between men and women beautifully without labouring it or making it obvious.
She does, however, portray the people caught up in revival as fanatics and one of her main characters is ‘touched’ as in loses her mind because of it. Not a good light on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Still this book has many hidden lessons in it if you care to look and I really do recommend it.
Anne didn’t start writing until she was 60 and received crushing reviews when first published… by men. Born in 1836 Anne was a Victorian through-and-through and I love that this emerges in her story. I wish I could have met Anne and sat down and discussed this book with her, arr well hopefully when I get to heaven!
Faith in Abertillery
In contrast to the two books above I will be writing about the Welsh revival from a Christian POV, I didn’t live in those times so I have done a massive amount of research to ensure my story is as authentic as possible. I wonder if anyone will read my book in a hundred years and look me up to see who I was and why I wrote the book!