Not Quite White, By Simon Thirsk

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The Independent Culture

The basic plot of Not Quite White could have come straight from an Ealing comedy: a young Englishman, Jon Bull, is sent from Westminster to Llanchwaraetegdanygelyn to help the town modernise. The inhabitants resent speaking English and Bull has no Welsh. But he falls in love with a beautiful yet troubled Welsh nationalist, Gwalia, and she with him...

It isn't as straightforward a comedy as that summary suggests, however. Bull isn't the stock character he at first seems (you have to wait till page 133 to find out why) and Gwalia has a horrific trauma in her past to overcome.

Much of the dialogue is in Welsh (with a glossary at the back), and the tension between the traditionalists and the modernisers is subtly handled, showing an understanding of both sides – and an acknowledgement that both sides can be supported by headcases.

It's implausible that an expert on community regeneration would arrive with so little knowledge of the community he was trying to regenerate, but the ending is clever, neatly placing what went before into perspective.

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