Black Parade, by Jack Jones
Parthian, 2009. Library of Wales series. Pp xiv, 414. £8.99
Reviewed by Daryl Leeworthy, Swansea Univeristy.
Few periods in Welsh history can compete with the interwar years in either historical intensity or their proletarian writings. The trauma of unemployment and economic depression prompted several of the most famous examples of Welsh writing in English. Lewis Jones’s twin novels Cwmardy (1937) and We Live (1939), Jack Jones’s Rhondda Roundabout (1934), and Gwyn Jones’s Times Like These (1936) all resonate with the temperament of the period. They are all overshadowed by Richard Llewellyn’s How Green Was My Valley (1939) in popularity of course but a case can be made for Black Parade (1935) as being the far more accurate and representative novel of the Valleys and their tumultuous history.
The novel is set in Jones’s native Merthyr; as the talisman of industrial South Wales the setting emphasises the blurring of fiction and fact that so marks Welsh novels of the thirties. Indeed, the novel, throughout, introduces us to historical characters – A. J. Cook, the miner’s leader; Wal Hannington, the Communist activist and writer; Lloyd George, Keir Hardie, and D. A. Thomas all get a mention – all of which underscores the realism that shoots through the story.
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