Clay: A poet’s poet’s novel

by flambardblog

Gladys Mary Coles extraordinary debut novel, Clay (listed for the Wales Book of the Year), continues to attract reviews. Set during the First World War, Clay is a compelling story of the effects of war and social unrest. Set in Liverpool, France and North Wales, the novel follows an imagined war poet, William Manderson, his family and close friends.

In a hugely detailed and rewarding review in the Wilfred Owen Association Journal, Meg Crane writes: ‘Gladys Mary Coles is a strikingly effective narrator when she is working with landscape. Without being in any way sentimental or evasive, she chooses a very different technique from the deliberate shock-tactics of Pat Barker or Sebastian Faulks . . . Anachronism, whether of language or historical incident, is carefully avoided – so Wilfred Owen, unknown at the time, is both nowhere and everywhere in the book . . . If Owen was a proud to be “a poet’s poet”, this is a poet’s poet’s novel.’

Helena Earnshaw’s review for the Welsh Books Council is equally positive and full of praise: ‘Written by award-winning author and historian Gladys Mary Coles, Clay is an exploration of the changes that are wrought on relationships during wartime . . . Set in Liverpool, France and north Wales, with a beautifully evoked sense of place, this is a sensitive and gently evocative novel of the deep and lasting physical, mental and societal effects of war. The ending left me a little bereft and unsettled – I hope the author is working on a sequel!’ (from, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council)

Gladys Mary is taking part in several events over the autumn:

3 September at 7.30 p.m.: ‘An Evening with Gladys Mary Coles’ as part of Weaverwords Festival. Tickets £5 0845 557 7469

8 September: lecture at the Siegfried Sassoon Conference, Radley College, Oxford

12 September: talk to the Romantic Novelists Association about Clay