A Million Tears by Paul Henke (Fiction)

posted 3 Mar 2010, 02:03 by DP Durlston-Powell   [ updated 14 Apr 2010, 15:05 ]
Backcover blurb:

A Million Tears is a mighty epic: a tale of love and hate, murder and suicide, poverty and wealth - this is the story of a family whose devotion for each other helps them to succeed where others fail. From the hardship and poverty of Wales in 1890 to the optimism and wealth of America, the book describes in vivd detail the family's journey to success. It takes the reader to the exotic corruption of the Carribean, the brutality of the American west and describes accurately the excitement of the pioneers in the early twentieth century.

My thoughts:

A masterclass in writing! Anyone that aspires to write a novel should read this to see how well planning, research and character development can be done. The novel is biography of the fictional Sir David Griffiths and the prologue is the interaction between the elderly knight and a reporter who is the fictional author. Sir David was born in 1880 and the biography is written from interviews in the 1960s, meaning that there are many major events that happen within his lifespan and with which he is involved, making this a great read for anyone that has an interest in this time in history as it brings the period to vivid life. Although the novel charts the Griffiths lives in chronological order, it does it in sections where events are seen through the eyes of different family members as they play a greater or lesser part in that portion of the tale; so we see the poverty and tragedy of Welsh mining through the eyes of ten year old David in Dai's story, whilst the escape to a new life in America is Evan's story (David's father) and their rise to success is Uncle James's story and so on. This is a great vehicle as it keeps the prose fresh throughout. Henke's ability to fully capture the reader in the utterly convincing world he portrays is outstanding and the emotional intensity he creates, especially in the first section - Dai's Story - is some of the strongest I have read in any book. I have not been brought to tears by a novel for a number of years, yet I had to stop four times within the first eight chapters as I could no longer see to read. Thankfully, that emotional wringer is loosened, although not completely, in the subsequent sections of the book otherwise I wouldn't have had the strength to move onto the other books within this series; which is what I am doing without delay as I need to know what happens to the Griffiths as the spectre of the First World War looms towards them!

Aside from the excellent quality of the writing, I also have some other thoughts regarding this book. Firstly, and somewhat unusually, the production value of the book itself is of noticeably high quality. The pages are bright white and smooth in a way that makes this book a further delight to hold. This isn't an aspect of a book that I would normally comment on, but it strengthens the impression given by the narrative itself, that this book is a work of love and dedication. Secondly, I am appalled that this book does not seem to be getting the commercial success it deserves. Despite a review in the Sun newspaper, most coverage seems to be only at a local level and the main bookshops don't seem to stock his work at all. Because of this, I take the unusual step of providing this link directly to the author's own site - www.henke.co.uk - but rest assured that I have not spoken with the author at all nor do I have any link to him ahead of writing this piece and so my views remain staunchly my own.

Verdict:

A classic novel that should be read by everybody. So good that I am considering buying a second copy just to sit pristine on the shelf ready for when I return to it in the future. I only wish it were available as a quality hardback.
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