Book review: A Place of Meadows and Tall Trees by Clare Dudman
In a nutshell: heartbreaking but fascinating historical drama – truth is always stranger than fiction.
This isn’t my usual kind of read. It’s got no supernatural element, no mystery to investigate and no rock n’ roll. In fact, being based upon the true story of 19th century Welsh settlers in Patagonia, it’s only partly fiction. I was doubly pleased, therefore, that I enjoyed this book as much as I did and found it so memorable and moving.
I think one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much was the sheer quality of the writing. The story is, to be honest, as unremittingly bleak as the inhospitable ‘promised land’ that the colonists struggle to sail to. That I found the trials and suffering of the characters quite as upsetting as I did is certainly down to the author’s skill in characterisation: she makes you care about these people. It’s not an easy read. At times you find yourself almost shouting ‘no!’ at the page as disaster following disaster befalls the families you have got to know. It’s all the more terrible for realising that these are based on real people, researched with a commitment and thorough eye for detail that I don’t think many other authors could equal. But what is notable about this book is that for every low there is a high – the settlers never back down and that’s what makes this above all a book about the triumph of the human spirit. Families literally battle to stay together and fulfil their dream. From their trials a new way of life, alongside the native Tehuelche tribes, is forged.
A beautifully written book that would appeal equally to fans of drama, history or character-driven pieces, you can buy it on Amazon here.