Book review: Feet In Chains

feetinchainsI picked this up in a hospital ‘honesty bookshop’. Most of the other books there were standard supermarket fare and didn’t appeal. I suppose the fact that it wasn’t ‘a something’ is a bad way to choose, but as myself and my friend had come unprepared for a long stay, it had to do. To be fair, I am interested in Welsh history, and as this is a fictionalised account based around the slate industry in Wales and came with a glowing review from The Guardian on the back blurb, it should have been good. It wasn’t.

Its main advantage was the fact that it showed exactly what not to do when writing – “show, don’t tell”. This book is rife with it. Long descriptions of places, people and clothes. Paragraphs telling us what they did. Nay, pages. I have a hard time, even though I only read it yesterday, remembering much beyond the gross details of the story.

I noticed, when I looked on Amazon, that there is a much more recent translation of this book, billed as Kate Roberts’ greatest novel. I hope it’s been rendered in a much more powerful way. The ‘Look Inside’ feature on Amazon gives me a pages-long, turgid essay on the life of Katie Roberts, so I’m not holding my breath.

Secondhand copies of this book are available from Amazon for a mere penny. I’m not surprised.

Feet In Chains by Katie Roberts. Copyright 1977

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