The Coward's Tale by Vanessa Gebbie
A Novel

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‘My name is Laddy Merridew. I'm a cry-baby. I'm sorry.'‘And my name is Ianto Jenkins. I am a coward. And that's worse.' Nine-year old Laddy Merridew, sent to live with the grandmother he barely knows, stumbles off the bus into a small Welsh mining town, where he begins an unlikely friendship with Ianto ‘Passchendaele' Jenkins, the town beggar. Through Ianto, Laddy learns of the collapse decades earlier of the coal mine of Kindly Light: a disaster whose legacy has echoed down through the generations and shaped the lives of all who live in the shadow of the colliery, especially Ianto, the keeper of all their stories. Thaddeus ‘Icarus' Evans strives in vain to carve wooden feathers that will float; ‘Half' Harris and Matty Harris have the same mother and yet have spent a lifetime ignoring each other; ‘Baker' Bowen - despite carrying the name of his forebears - has never learned to bake, and James Little, the gas-meter emptier, digs in his allotment by moonlight, his pockets filled with the treasures of his neighbours. Along with the other men of the town and the women who mothered them, married them and mourned them, they are bound together by the shared tragedy of Kindly Light and by the mysterious figure of Ianto Jenkins.

About Vanessa Gebbie

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Vanessa Gebbie has previously written numerous prize-winning short stories, and published two collections, as well as a book on the art of the short story. The Coward's Tale is her first novel, and marks her U.S. debut. An extract from the novel won the Daily Telegraph Novel in a Year Competition. This year, Vanessa is writer-in-residence at Stockholm University. Born in Wales, she lives in Sussex.
Published February 28, 2012 by Bloomsbury USA. 385 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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For the price of a coffee or a bit to eat, Ianto tells how a character, say Tutt the Undertaker or Baker Bowen the chiropodist, or Nathan the piano tuner, can trace his situation or idiosyncrasy back to the death of an ancestor during the Kindly Light mine disaster years before.

Jan 23 2012 | Read Full Review of The Coward's Tale: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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Gebbie creates a mid-century Welsh mining village and its tragic history through the eyes of Laddy Merridew, a newly arrived schoolboy, and Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, the indigent bard whose stories of fellow townsfolk evoke the village’s devastating past and “get into your soul.” Ianto u...

Jan 09 2012 | Read Full Review of The Coward's Tale: A Novel

City Book Review

I have a story for them, see?” Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, self-proclaimed coward and professional beggar, tells stories.

May 06 2012 | Read Full Review of The Coward's Tale: A Novel

We Love This Book

The Coward’s Tale follows the telling of tales about the families affected by a disasterous cave-in at a coal mine.

Jul 11 2011 | Read Full Review of The Coward's Tale: A Novel

New Welsh Review

It is almost Chaucerian, this telling of the Deputy Librarian’s Tale, the Piano Tuner’s Tale, the Baker’s Tale, the Window Cleaner’s Tale and, yes, the Clerk’s Tale.

Aug 14 2012 | Read Full Review of The Coward's Tale: A Novel

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