Reviews

GERAINT GOODWIN: HIS LIFE AND WORK
A new biography by James Whetter

Until very recently the life and work of Newtown-born novelist and short story writer Geraint Goodwin was virtually forgotten except by a few enthusiasts, until 2008 when the Welsh publisher Parthian republished his most famous book The Heyday in the Blood in its Library of Wales series. Shortly afterwards Joan How, who encountered Goodwin’s work on visits to Wales and fell in love with it, launched the Geraint Goodwin Society.

Now James Whetter, who tells us that he is distantly related to the Goodwins on his mother’s side, has written a very detailed biography of the novelist’s life. A great deal of research has clearly been involved - the copious bibliography at the end of the book lists a vast range of sources from letters and other documents in the National Library of Wales to the archives of the Montgomeryshire Express, critical works and articles about Goodwin, and his own articles in journals such as the Welsh Outlook.

Primarily, however, his source material is the novels themselves. It is well known that Geraint Goodwin’s novels are set in and around a town he named Moreton but which is really Newtown, where he was born, where he grew up, from where his early career as a journalist began, and where his mother lived all her life. The descriptions of the town in Heyday, Watch for the Morning and Come Michaelmas are so specific that they have become an important source for the history of Newtown, and are greedily read and reread as such by local historians. Furthermore the characters in the novels, especially the young men – poetic, tubercular – desperate to escape small town life – seem to be based on Goodwin himself, his half-brothers, his parents and all the people of the town. It seems inevitable, therefore, that any biographer will make extensive use of the stories to draw a picture of Goodwin’s life, and James Whetter has done so. Goodwin’s work passed out of copyright in 2011, 70 years after his death in 1941, enabling Mr Whetter to quote extensively not only from the novels and short stories but from Goodwin’s articles in the Welsh Outlook which are now hard to come by.

But Mr Whetter has worked hard to back up inferences about Goodwin’s life drawn from the works with supporting documentary evidence from census records, letters and newspapers, which has filled his narrative with information about Goodwin and his family. For example the funeral of Goodwin’s eldest half-brother Richard Nettleton Goodwin at Golders Green Crematorium in 1924 is described in great detail, full list of mourners and all.

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