Rachel Jones, Campaigns Officer for RNIB Cymru, recommends a quintet of reads from Welsh authors – all, crucially, available in accessible format from RNIB’s free library.
If I was to ask you to conjure up the image of someone reading a book, where would your mind go? Perhaps someone sat in a comfy chair, their arms holding a thick, dog-eared paperback inches from their face. But how do people who are blind or partially sighted, those of us who have low to no vision, read? Well, there are many different ways to experience a book; using your eyes is just one of them.
As someone living with sight loss, I’ve found the ability to access books in a range of formats to be an absolute game changer – from large print and braille to the good old audio book. Reading needn’t just be looking at words on a page, it is so much more. For those whose treasured hobby is reading, losing your eyesight can make it seem like books are yet one more thing that is lost as well. But whether you’re blind, partially sighted or would like to delve into a slightly different type of reading experience, we can adapt the ways we interact with stories, by using our other senses and embracing new ways to enjoy them.
THE LIFE OF REBECCA JONES
Angharad Price (MacLehose)
The Life Of Rebecca Jones concerns a rural Welsh family based in the Maesglasau valley in Gwynedd. The story is told in biographical style from the point of view of Rebecca, starting from just after the marriage of her parents. We follow her life and share in the ups and downs of a farming family in the early 1900s.
Author Angharad Price’s words bring the landscape and family at the heart of the story to life, bringing with them the intense feeling of hiraeth, that deep longing for home. Simple but beautiful, this is a short and enjoyable story that might hold particular power for those feeling nostalgic for the north Wales setting.
THE STORY OF WALES
Jon Gower with Huw Edwards (BBC Books)
A sweeping history of Wales, from the Ice Age to the 21st century and everything in between. It trots along at pace, never lingering on a time and place for too long, so would be ideal for people interested in history that want an overview rather than in-depth details.
This is a companion piece to the BBC Wales documentary, fronted by Huw Edwards, which aired in 2012. While it doesn’t have the benefit of being able to show the beauty and breathtaking vistas of Wales, it does evoke the unique landscapes and connects the reader to specific historical events.
Broad and light enough to read at leisure, you don’t feel as if you are sitting through the dreaded dry history lessons of your school days.
DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS
Horatio Clare (Chatto & Windus)
When Clare first stepped aboard a Maersk cargo ship bound for Asia, he had no idea that the world he was about to enter would change him so profoundly. Down To The Sea… focuses on the 1.25 million people who spend their lives on the water, their joys and struggles, and how invisible they are to the everyday folk – landlubbers like us – who rely so much on their labour.
As one of Wales’ most celebrated contemporary non-fiction writers, Clare is known for plunging himself deep into worlds that most people don’t even know exist. He pitches in and forms close relationships with the crew members he shares a ship with, resulting in a warm and no-holds-barred dive into a way of life that shapes the world we live in.
Alys Conran (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
With this grand lyrical fiction, Alys Conran is truly cementing herself as a Welsh writer to watch. The narrative is framed by the perspectives of three women, each representing a different time and place. This ranges seamlessly from aging Magda in her grand old Victorian home by the sea; her mother, getting to grips with her new life in postwar India; and Susheela, Magda’s carer who juggles her studies with her part-time job.
Each of these women seem so real I felt like I could reach out and touch them. Be warned, though: if you’re looking for a fluffy beach read, Dignity really doesn’t fit the bill. But for something with real impact, whose characters will stay with you for weeks, this is a read in which to immerse yourself, in whichever format you choose.
ACADEMI MR DWM
Jon Gower (CAA Cymru)
A Welsh-language fantasy novel targeted at a young adult audience, though as someone a tiny bit over this age myself I think any reader can expect an entertaining, exciting read. The novel is set in the fantastical world of Mr Dwm’s Academy, where things are changing for characters Daf and Heti.
Jon Gower is one of Wales’ most established writers for a reason; I love the way the author describes the characters and tells the story as if the reader was there. It really sparks the imagination! I also love the dialogue, and can relate to the way the characters speak to one another. A very well written title, Academi Mr Dwm would also make a fine reading club choice.
Find out more about RNIB Cymru here.
words RACHEL JONES
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