This novel is a remarkable achievement on
two levels. Superficially it is a richly comic story about insular people in a
decaying environment: Rees and his young wife Ellen; Tal Harding, who
consoles Ellen when Rees is injured in a pit accident; and the docile woman who
helps Rees find himself again. Below the surface of the lives and times of Rees
and Ellen, runs the poignant journal of old John Vaughan, Ellen's father -
child of the pits, man of the valley, who has returned home to the mining
town of Darien, for like the town itself, now that Caib Colliery is to be
closed down, he is near to death.
Ron Berry, writing with passion and a deep knowledge of the scene he brings so
vividly to life, uses John's journal to recount the history of Welsh coal
mining. He, of course, knows South Wales and the pits from the inside, and uses
his extraordinary mastery of language to expose the deep-seated scars of a
people whose old way of life has almost vanished from the valleys.