“I like to think if I’d stuck with cricket I could have been a Welsh Ian Botham.” (Nicky Wire, Manic Street Preachers)

Well, it’s strange times indeed that we are living through my bookish friends. May you all, and your families and friends, stay safe and well.

My blogging was already decidedly scarce although I kept making (wasted) efforts to get it back on track. Now with all that is happening my workload is through the roof (those tips on how to fill your hours during home working/isolation etc are completely wasted on me) and what hours I do have to spare I’m finding it hard to read in due to all the anxious feelings.

I have started doing yoga every morning though, which I’ve been claiming I’m about to do for at least the last eleventy million years, so its not all bad 😀 (and for anyone else feeling anxious, it seriously helps. If nothing else swearing at the perfect vision of the instructor as you sweatily try to wrap your ankles round your head is a great stress reliever.)

Anyway, I read a wonderful novella a while ago in preparation for the Wales Readathon 2020 aka Dewithon hosted by the lovely Paula at Book Jotter. Originally I was going to pair it with How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn but sadly that classic remains unread on my shelves due to the aforementioned brain chatter. Instead, here is just one book but it’s totally deserving of a post all to itself.

Cove by Cynan Jones (2016) is only 95 pages long and shows how intense such a tight form can be. The writing is lyrical, precise, beautiful. Every word carries its full weight.

A man is adrift at sea, having been struck by lightning. He is disoriented and in pain.

“His mouth is crusted with salt. He does not know where he is. There is a pyroclast of fine dried ash across his skin.

When he comes to, the strongest thing he feels is the tingling in his hands. It feels as if they are distant things, strange ringing bells. Finds out anew he cannot move his arms. He does not remember getting back into the kayak. Does not understand. The ground is moving. Is sure that if he moves he will abolish himself. Holds on to himself like a thought coming out of sleep.”

Gradually, a sense of where he is and what he needs to do to survive emerges:

“Saw on his skin, a grey dust above the point his arm had lain in the water, felt the knowledge of it flutter, float inside him. A sense of himself, a fly trapped the wrong side of the glass.”

We stay with the man as he assesses what resources he has; what state he is in physically; and as his memories gradually return, hazy and confused, Eventually he has a sense of a particular reason that he must return home, but will he make it?

“When he saw the address label on the bag he saw his name. It was like looking into an empty cup. Then he heard a voice say it. The knowledge it gave down was as delicate as an image sitting on the surface of the water, disrupting as he moved to reach it.

He let it go, instinctively.”

Cove is a stunning novella that occupies a space between prose and poetry. Its economy and lyricism make it poetic, its clear plot pulls you through the story. 

I’ve not done Cove justice at all as my brain is kaput, so all I can do is urge you to read it for yourselves 😊

To end, if you’d like to embrace some Welsh culture but are also finding reading a struggle, I can recommend an excellent Welsh language tv thriller, Hidden (it’s bilingual on BBC4). Both series (I’ve just finished watching the second) are pared back and tense. You always know who did it; the interest is in the quiet, steady way the police piece it together and the psychological portraits of all involved. They are also a really, really tough watch, so now might not be the best time, but for future times when we’re feeling more robust…

38 thoughts on ““I like to think if I’d stuck with cricket I could have been a Welsh Ian Botham.” (Nicky Wire, Manic Street Preachers)

  1. Pingback: Wales Readathon 2020 – Book Jotter

    • I’m so glad you liked it Paula, and thank you for hosting another wonderful Dewithon! I hope you enjoy Cove when you get to it.

      Brain chatter is such a pain isn’t it? Distracting us from enormous TBR piles just waiting to be read 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Extraordinary writing! I’ve noticed a few references to this in other blogs but will definitely add it to my list now. I’m sure all those ‘how to fill your time’ tips must be teeth-grindingly irksome for you. I hope you find a way to turn off the brain chatter if only temporarily. My anxiety has decided to locate itself in my lower back. Sending lots of sympathy and positive thoughts your way,

    Liked by 1 person

    • 😀 The yoga teacher never looks anything less than thoroughly fragrant while I’m huffing and puffing! Nicky’s always good for a quote isn’t he? I can recommend yoga/pilates at the moment, it does help – now’s the time! Equally, it’s a very good time for another biscuit and a sit down….

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I can recommend the morning PE lesson by Joe (@theBodyCoach) for a 20min daily burst of activity (on YouTube) – supposed to be for kids, but turns out the adults are joining in too. I had thought that I would serenely be doing, like you, the daily yoga routines that I had always promised myself. But the energy of the PE thing aligns more closely with the bunny-hopping nature of my brain at the moment! 😂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Let’s not feel guilty. I had chosen a book for Welsh Reading Month but it hasn’t happened, and we all know why!
    I’m not sure, but I think I’m going to be able to watch Hidden. Usually there’s a horrid little popup that tells me that I can’t watch the BBC from outside the UK, but that hasn’t happened this time. I’m not going to click ‘play’ until I’ve finished the review I’m working on. It’s taken me two weeks to read the book and I’m determined to launch my review on the world ASAP!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m like you, stuck at home with a lot of work to do and I see all these recommendations on how to pass the time.
    It’s hard to concentrate these days, I’m happy to read crime fiction for my Quais du Polar event, it takes me far away from home and only after a few pages.

    Take care and have fun with yoga!

    Back to books. I don’t think I’ve ever read any Welsh book.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m finding it very hard to concentrate too, particularly as the pace at which the situation is developing feels so overwhelming. Yoga sounds like a great idea. I know I should be trying things like Pilates right now, so your endorsement of the benefits may well prove to be the push I need to get started.

    As for the book, it sounds excellent. I revisited The Dig fairly recently – the only Cynan Jones I’ve read so far, but I’d love to try more. Your description of his prose is spot on as the poetic quality really shines through, the pared-back style making it feel all the more powerful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is the speed and uncertainty Jacqui, you’re absolutely right. It’s a tough time for everyone.

      I’m really not an exercise person but I thought its now or never! And it has made a difference. I hope it helps you too.

      I’ve heard really good things about The Dig and after Cove I definitely want to read more of this author. His prose really is stunning isn’t it? As you say, so powerful.

      Like

  7. Your review reminds me what a great writer Cynan Jones is. Some years ago now (5) I read The Dig, which I thought was brilliant. Your review suggests he has maintained his delicate touch. I shall put this on my every lengthening tbr list.
    Thank you. Caroline (Bookword)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sounds great! I’ve been thinking about searching through my TBR for all the shortest books since long books seem to be beyond me too at the moment. However I haven’t been reduced to attempting to strangle myslef with my own legs yet! I’m sticking to suicide by cake-excess – it may be just as lethal but it’s less painful… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good morning from sunny Vancouver! In the extraordinary times that we are experiencing, books allow us to explore posibilities. I am currently reading “A Gentleman in Moscow” which is about a man that lived his life within the confines of a hotel. Liz recommended this book to me several months ago. I started to read it before all of the social distancing came into place but I find that this is the perfect book to read. It reminds me that while our location may be fixed, we are not isolated. It is how we respond to the world around us. Here is a brilliant quote that brings this idea out: “He had said that our lives are steered by uncertainties, many of which are disruptive or even daunting; but that if we persevere and remain generous of heart, we may be granted a moment of lucidity—a moment in which all that has happened to us suddenly comes into focus as a necessary course of events, even as we find ourselves on the threshold of the life we had been meant to lead all along.” Amor Towles, A Gentleman in Moscow

    Liked by 1 person

      • What I especially appreciate about our blogging community is that we have learned how to connect virtually, which is something that is acquired as we go along. For me, it means that location does not signify isolation. This is going to be a creative time for us all. When I look back on this time, I want to remember that I chose creativity, courage and compassion. Take care, my friend. So grateful to connect over the pond.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, you’re absolutely right. I’ve always been grateful for our community but it’s taken an extra meaning now as it offers connection and solace at a time when they are most needed.

          I admire your approach to these circumstances and will remember your words. Take care and stay safe.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. That does sound like a very intense piece of writing. I haven’t managed to read anything for the Dewithon this year. I loved the first series of Hidden so I will definitely be watching that, when I get round to it. I hadn’t realised it was on until my mum mentioned it, so I need to find it on Iplayer.
    Sorry you’re so busy, I’m at home now for the foreseeable, but also finding it hard to settle to things. Strange times indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really intense Ali. I think that’s why it works well at so short a length, otherwise it would be an arduous read but as it was it was a perfect length.

      If you loved the first series of Hidden I’m sure you’ll like the second – the same unshowy police procedural, taut atmosphere and bleak, beautiful scenery.

      They really are strange times. I hope time at home works well for you, once we’ve all got used to this.

      Like

  11. You make Cove sound enticing, it reminded me of reading Louise Beeches How to Be Brave, which recounts something of her grandfather’s story being lost at sea for 55 days, one of only two survivors of a torpedoed ship. The writing makes you feel what its like, its disorienting. So to read a novella like that during these times, I’m not surprised you feel as if your brain is kaput, books like this add to it, but remain unforgettable reading experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

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