Are You Looking Forward to Reading Wales 2022?


Dewithon is an opportunity for book bloggers and readers in general to discover Welsh writers and their works (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, in fact anything written in English or Welsh with links to the nation of Wales).

We will begin our usual 31 days of celebration on Tuesday 1st March 2022 (St. David’s Day), with an official page appearing on which your Dewithon-related posts will feature. In the meantime, you can find plenty of useful links and reading suggestions in the freshly updated DHQ (Dewithon Headquarters) post and in our Reading Wales Library, but please do not hesitate to ask for help if you are struggling to get started. You are encouraged to read and share your thoughts on any book or literary subject with a Welsh connection, so please prepare to dechrau darllen (start reading)! 

No regimented readathon

As mentioned in WUTW #205, I will be up to my brows moving house in March, so cannot commit to posting a weekly analysis of a specific work this year. In all other respects, however, Dewithon will continue as usual.

I personally intend to focus on something a bit different and would be delighted if you joined me in reading Sugar and Slate by Charlotte Williams – past winner of the Arts Council of Wales Book of the Year. Published by Planet in 2002, it is an autobiographical story of a Welsh-African mixed-race woman, daughter of a white Welsh-speaking mother and a black father from Guyana, growing up in North Wales. It has been on my TBR list for goodness knows how long and it struck me that it may be the ideal title to select in the current climate – especially as the author has recently been appointed by the Welsh Government to head a new working group to advise on and improve the teaching of themes relating to Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and experiences across all parts of the school curriculum.

In his review for The Guardian, Gary Younge said of this book: “It is Williams’s Welshness that makes her examination of her mixed-race identity distinctive; but it is the humour, candour and facility of her style that makes it exceptional.”

I would love to know what you think of this year’s choice. Is it of interest to you? Perhaps you’ve read it. If so, did you post a review? Please do share your thoughts.

The devil is in the detail

Interior of Salem Chapel in Cefncymerau, with its central figure of Siân Owen, dressed in traditional Welsh costume.

The main Reading Wales banner (at the top of this page) shows a Small Tortoiseshell basking in the sunshine – not a specifically Welsh species, of course, but native to Wales, and generally on the wing throughout the spring, summer and early autumn months. Sad to say, due to a range of environmental issues (including loss of habitat) this butterfly isn’t anywhere near as common as it was during my childhood – a far from unusual development in the 21st century. The picture was taken by my brilliant mum, Eve Parry (remember her fabulous goat shot from D21?), in the Great Orme Country Park and Nature Reserve. I went with this image because it makes me feel cheerful and optimistic, and I suspect we could all do with a splash of colour to brighten our days after everything that has happened over the last couple of years.

As for the current generic logo – which you will see on the right-hand side of every Book Jotter page – I have appropriated what is arguably the most famous Welsh image of all time.

Salem was painted in 1908 by Cornish artist Sydney Curnow Vosper and depicts a scene inside Capel Salem, a Baptist Chapel in the village of Pentre Gwynfryn, located in Ardudwy, only a short distance from our lodge. This iconic watercolour shows a pious congregation in traditional Welsh garb, at a time when chapel was at the heart of Welsh life. It is also somewhat notorious because it is believed the devil’s face is visible if you know where to look.

The central figure in the painting is Siân Owen (1837-1927), a 71-year-old widow who lived in an isolated farmhouse in Llanbedr. If you look closely at the intricate details of her shawl, you may be able to make out the devil’s menacing features on her left arm – the paisley pattern forming a horn, the folds his eye and nose and the trim his beard. Vosper always denied this was his intention, but it has become the work’s main talking point over the years. He did, however, admit to there being a ghostly visage in the verdurous window scene.

Get Dewithoning!

Please do let me know if you write anything at all about Reading Wales, though I’m especially keen to highlight your reviews and features. To do this, simply drop me a line or leave a link to your piece in the comments section below – and should you refer to the event on Twitter, I would appreciate you using the hashtag #dewithon22. Thank you and good luck (diolch a phob lwc)!

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36 replies

  1. Will certainly do my best to join in….:)

  2. Thanks for this. I really like the sound of ‘Sugar and Slate’ and will definitely put it on my reading list. To my shame, I cannot recall the last book I read by a Welsh writer so I will be keeping an eye on this for sure.

  3. I’m going to try and join too!

  4. I’m looking forward to it Paula! I’ll try and join in but my blogging is practically non-existent at the moment. Sugar and Slate sounds really interesting – I’ll look forward to your review.

  5. Well of course I’ll be joining in – but then I suspect you knew that!
    I’ll be reading A Ray of Darkness by Margiad Evans which has just been re-released by Honno. It was published originally in 1952 and it one of the few pieces written about epilepsy by a sufferer.

  6. There’s one book I have my eye on, so if that turns out to be as appealing as it looks, then I’m in!

  7. I’ve marked the book TBR for a future date; it looks like a story I would like to read. Half our city libraries shut down after Christmas, due to reduced staff availability and it’s hard for me to get to the next closest. It’s walkable, but there’s been so much snow (and I love the snow, so I’m not complaining about that!) that the sidewalks are only wide enough for a single person to walk down, so there’s no way to socially distance. If it thaws, or they reopen, I’ll make a dash; if not, I hope you have a wonderful Dewithon!

  8. I can’t wait! Will link back here as soon as I blog about it.

  9. Sugar and Slate looks excellent, but alas, I can’t find a reasonably priced copy. I have two books by Richard King (born in Newport, lives just the right side of the border, about Wales in part and wholly), The Lark Ascending and Brittle with Relics (the new one! I am reviewing that for Shiny New Books in Feb but will include my personal review for Dewithon). I will be reading Jude Rogers’ The Sound of Being Human soon but unfortunately that’s out in April and there’s an embargo. Is Eley Williams Welsh? I can’t work it out! If so, I have The Liar’s Dictionary, too. Hooray!

  10. I’m in! I’ve found a library copy of Sugar and Slate and have set a reminder to reserve it. I’m also going to borrow Joe Dunthorne’s Wild Abandon, and there’s always room for more Jon Ronson in my life!

  11. Just ducking in to say “hello Paula”. I have been tardy (computer failure and wonky loan laptop) with reading my favourite blogs and since yours tops the list as an extra favourite, I feel extra tardy. Especially with Dewithon 2022 just around the corner. Excitement! I don’t know what I will manager to read this year but I’ll get cracking re ‘Sugar and Slate’ – and also display the bravely dressed Siân Owen. I thought that naughty devil was at the window. Anyway it seems Siân lived a long life. Now I’m off to catch up with some more of your BJ posts…

    Also I love your Mum’s butterfly photograph!

    • No worries, Gretchen. I quite understand – life is filled with unforseen complications. Anyhow, I hope you are able to find a copy of Sugar and Slate and I’m delighted you will be Dewithoning once again.

      You are quite correct regarding Salem. The artist always denied adding anything unpleasant to Siân Owen’s shawl but readily admitted to something nasty at the window. Oddly enough, the former has become far more famous – perhaps because people prefer an enigma.

      I will pass your kind comment on to my mum. She will be so pleased her butterfly picture is being appreciated. 🤗

  12. A few of the local universities have copies of Sugar and Slate. I will see if I can get access to one.

    I have another book in mind if that doesn’t work out.


  13. Yes I am! I have pulled down and dusted off my copy of Bruce Chatwin’s On the Black Hill. I just have to finish another couple of books first…..


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