Ceri Shaw



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"My First Colouring Book" - A Review

user image 2008-11-15
By: Ceri Shaw
Posted in: Book Reviews

My First Colouring Book - Lloyd Jones

Speaking as a hard-core short story fanatic, I can honestly say that Lloyd Jones' "My First Colouring Book" has been the high point of my literary year so far. It's great to see a Welsh author who has so far mastered this genre as to be worthy of mention alongside Carver, Cheever, Maupassant, Mansfield and, dare one even suggest it, Chekhov himself.

Lloyd Jones is fond of referring to his writing as "scribblings". In this collection he has elected to "scribble" in a dazzling variety of colors, all of which are intensely evocative.

There are many fine things in this anthology. There is "Blood," which warns of the potentially cataclysmic dangers of "exotic blood transfusions". There is "Post Office Red," which asserts the critical importance of preserving a sense of mystery and wonder. The closing sentence of this story reveals the "moral" of the tale with the same blinding clarity achieved by Mansfield in "The Doll's House". In "Black," an intellectual atheist meets a lady friend at a lake near the oldest church in Wales. It is close to the festive season and they are invited to join the Christmas service. The protagonist spends his time in the church indulging sexual fantasies about old girlfriends and the female occupant of the burial plot in the pew beneath his feet. On the drive back home they pass a dark and sinister stranger on the road and he has perhaps the closest thing to a religious experience that he will ever know. "Wine" is a heart-warming "feelgood" tale about a devout christian who performs a charitable act in order to fill a gap in the "O" section of his address book. It contains elements of high farce and compares favorably with the best of O Henry.

Also not to be missed are the four short essays at the end of the book which describe walks in North, South, East and West Wales. As a South-Walian and a keen hill-walker back in the day, I deeply appreciated his account of a sojourn in the Black Mountains and his visits to Cwmyoy and Partrishow churches. Both are magical places and evoked masterfully.

Lest anything I have so far said gives the impression that this is a light-hearted collection, please allow me to observe that these stories contain some of the most profound and poignant meditations on life, love and death in 21st century literature. In a recent interview with Americymru, Lloyd Jones was asked about his future literary plans. He replied, "Maybe some more short stories?". We sincerely hope so.

In short, this book is a treat for short-story fans, lovers of literature and lovers of Wales. If you fall into all three categories, then it is simply a "must read". If you are buying a gift for Christmas, either as a gift to yourself or for someone else, you couldn't do better than "My First Colouring Book."