In the preface to The Collected Stories of Rhys Davies, Rhys Davies says that short-story writers write for love, not money. A short story gives “the release of a day off,” while novels are “noisy and dense.” Davies says he “dives” into a story’s elements in the first paragraph. Middle episodes move quickly and conclude with either a surprise ending or an uncertain resolution.
Wales in the years between 1920 and 1970 is the setting for most of Davies’ naturalistic stories; a few have settings in London or on the Continent. However, universal themes emerge: the struggle of the individual for self-determination; youthful idealism followed by disillusionment; frustrated sexual relationships between men and women; greed and guilt that erode the spirit; economic and social restrictions that lock women into poverty, abuse, or outmoded traditions; the realistic, occasionally humorous, effects of death on the living; the power of secrets; and the need for revenge.
Character-driven, many of Davies’ stories have real-life connections. He skillfully characterizes coal miners emerging from collieries deep in the earth, their “bodies black with coal dust, their eyes white as marble, and their lips glistening red”; their wives and mothers, harassed by meal preparation and ritual baths; lonely travelers on trains in England and France; women who have “stepped over the line” of propriety and duty; and vengeful women....
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