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A Declaration of Independence


The explosion which nearly killed Gwenno made her an orphan. Her widowed father was blown to pieces carting a load of nitroglycerin to the slate quarries in the mountains of Snowdonia. Left entirely on her own in a hostile world, thirteen year old Gwenno settles down as the only female in the community of rough Anglesey quarry workers who recused her after the explosion. It is a strange life and in - Victorian Wales where most of this exceptionally entertaining novel is set - a scandalous one.

The quarry owners refuse to pay her compensation for her father’s death, though he had carried the load with no knowledge of the true nature of the explosive contents. But Gwenno, precocious, articulate, tenacious of spirit and fierce of outlook - though never lacking humour - wages her campaign against the establishment. Branded as the Anglesey men’s whore, tormented by the local population, she retains enough fighting spirit to score an appropriate revenge in circumstances of breath catching suspense.

What gives W. H. Canaway’s unusual novel an extra dimension is that these events are related by Gwenno herself at the present time: an indomitable old lady in her nineties, living with her daughter and American son-in-law in Los Angeles, and waiting to be placed by them in a Sunset Home. Still as fiercely independent as she was eighty years ago, she sets it all down for the benefit of her hippy grandsons, with whom she has more in common than with their self-centred parents.

Theauthor of Sammy Going South can be relied on to tell a first-class story. In this novel he has created a wholly original character who lives on in the mind long after the book is finished.