Wales Arts Review has already tackled the question of the greatest Welsh novel, but what about the Welsh novel with the most memorable protagonist? As a diverse and culturally rich nation, Wales’ vast literary canon has produced a wide cast of fictional protagonists who’ve connected with countless readers worldwide. From wizards to foxes to doctors – and much more in between – here are just ten of the countless Welsh novels with memorable protagonists.
“A mercurial Valleys prize-fighter who punches, and inadvertently kills, the man who has been openly having an affair with his sexually frustrated wife, a woman long-since resigned to her warrior of a husband never being able to replicate his athletic prowess within the conjugal bed.”
Read Craig Austin’s full review of So Long Hector Bebb here.
“Caleb has fallen from grace, haunted by his past fame and a relationship that has left him traumatized. Living with his parents after his father’s business has gone bust, taking turns sleeping on a single mattress bed with his conspiracy theorist, cannabis addicted brother, Caleb is searching desperately for anything that might offer a way out.”
Read Martha O’Brien’s full review of Easy Meat here.
“Fantastic Mr Fox is a bit of an anomaly in Dahl’s oeuvre, in that there is no telekinetic schoolgirl, no giant airborne fruit, no humungous bumpkin dispensing dreams through kids’ windows – just a wily fox and his three-pronged nemesis.”
You can read Gary Raymond’s full review of Fantastic Mr Fox here.
“Oliver is flawed. He’s intelligent, neurotic, paranoid, delusional, well-read, funny and pretentious. It is the character that makes the book such a success. Oliver’s character is so big, it dominates the novel […] Tate is one of the most believable Welsh protagonists I have come across; full of flaws and full of himself.”
You can read Elin Williams’ full review of Submarine here.
“Howl’s character is another of the joys of the book. He is young, flamboyant and vain, with blond hair and glass-green eyes, spending hours at a time in the bathroom before setting out to pursue his conquests […] asked whether characters in the book are based on real people Diana said that people always hope that the tall, blond Howl is real.”
You can read Penny Thomas’ full review of Howl’s Moving Castle here.
“Through Hill’s eyes, the world in Roberts’ novel often seems bleak. Nevertheless, the novel compels us to remember that, even in those dark moments when the weight of loss feels all-consuming, there is always a world outside moving forward.”
You can read Gemma Pearson’s full review of Hello Friend We Missed You here.
“The son in question here is Matthew Price, or Will as he is known at home, the only child of a railway signalman and his wife, Harry and Ellen, who has become a University lecturer in London […] His concern is that the measurer may indeed learn how to measure, but that to measure is not, in itself, sufficient if lives, and how they were lived, are themselves the real question.”
You can read Dai Smith’s full review of Border Country here.
“Every ghost story needs a sceptic and Dr Faraday guides us through our own disbelief at the goings on in Hundreds Hall. This is a careful, perfectly crafted gothic spook story, a grandchild of the masters of the art, MR James, Wilkie Collins and (with the Fall of the House of Usher in particular) Edgar Allan Poe.”
You can read Gary Raymond’s review of The Little Stranger here.
“Although this is a personal, domestic story, it takes place against a backdrop of broader change – Nonconformity losing sway, the Anglicisation of the north Wales border town where our protagonist Bet Jones lives, the young losing respect for the old, her son becoming detached from her in his teenage years.”
You can read Francesca Rhydderch’s review of Tywyll Heno here.
“Pigeon, the novel’s eponymous anti-hero, is a skinny boy with shoulders as ‘delicate as egg shells’ and who has a taste for ice cream, tobacco and adventure. Not the Boy’s Own sort. That we soon learn because, like an R.S. Thomas poem, this story unfolds in North Wales and utterly debunks the myths of a rural (childhood) idyll.”
You can read Bill Rees’ full review of Piegon here.