A physical book (for a change) and one that kept me company for months - I only managed to read a few pages in the evenings, although it became easier when I replaced the light on my bedside table.
"The Valley" is the real story of Richard Benson's family. The subtitle says "A Hundred Years in the Life of a Yorkshire Family" - and you can imagine that got my attention!
The book follows four generations of a rather widespread family, most of them living in the Dearne Valley in South Yorkshire. Now, my late husband was born and raised in Wath-upon-Dearne; my mother-in-law still lived in the same house where he was born until about 15 yeras ago, when she moved to Ripon to be closer to her daughter (and to downsize). She grew up in Thurnscoe, which often features in the book, too; a typical mining village like many others at that time and in that area.
There is a lot about mining and especially the Miners' Strikes in the book. I knew some of it from what Steve had told me years ago, but even now, after reading it in chronological order, I confess I am still somewhat confused and would not really be able to explain it all to someone else.
Life was certainly harsh there and then, and even harsher to some. But people also were people, with the same dreams and hopes, wishes and needs as us. They worked hard to give their children a better life, and they longed for love and friendship like everyone else. Their plans did not always work out; accidents, politics and other events got in the way sometimes. But they managed by relying on each other and their ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
Because I sometimes let an entire week go by before I picked up the book again, I sometimes had to refer to the very useful family tree in the front of the book, so as not to remind myself of who was who. The author himself features only marginally; his focus switches between the various branches of the family, but he never lets his grandmother Winnie out of sight for long, whose 92 years of life set something of a framework to this impressive book.
No matter whether you have a special attachment to Yorkshire or not, this is a very readable book - not fiction, more like a family history the way probably every one could tell about their own family, if only we could be bothered (and had the time) to write it all up!
My sister gave this to me, but unfortunately, I can not remember whether as a Christmas gift or she only lent it to me. In any case, I was sad to finish it, even though it took me so long, and I would like to read the other book by Richard Benson, "The Farm", which is about the farm (surprise!) the family on his father's side worked and lived on, and where he grew up.
Richard Benson's website is here. Sadly, his blog seems to be hibernating since 2016.