The Coward's Tale

The Coward's Tale

4.09 (293 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Expected delivery to the United States in 9-12 business days.

Not ordering to the United States? Click here.


'My name is Laddy Merridew. I'm a cry-baby. I'm sorry.'
'And my name is Ianto Jenkins. I am a coward. And that's worse.'
The boy Laddy Merridew, sent to live with his grandmother, stumbles off the bus into a small Welsh mining community, where he begins an unlikely friendship with Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, the town beggar-storyteller.
Ianto is watchman over the legacy of the collapse many years ago of Kindly Light Pit, a disaster whose echoes reverberate down the generations and blight the lives of many in the town. Through Ianto's stories Laddy Merridew is drawn into both the town's history and the conundrums of the present.

Why has woodwork teacher Icarus Evans striven most of his life to carve wooden feathers that will float on an updraft? Why is the undertaker Tutt Bevan trying to find a straight path through the town? Why does James Little, the old gas-meter emptier, dig his allotment by moonlight? And why does window cleaner Judah Jones take autumn leaves into a disused chapel?

These and other men of the town, both past and present, and the women who mothered them, married them and mourned them, are bound together by the echoes of the Kindly Light tragedy and by the mysterious figure of Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, whose stories of loyalty and betrayal, loss and love, form an unforgettable, spellbinding tapestry.
show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 384 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 24.89mm | 259g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • UK ed.
  • 1408822636
  • 9781408822630
  • 417,425

Review Text

My novel of the year ... an extraordinarily lyrical, moving, funny evocation of a Welsh mining town ... A terrific achievement A.N. Wilson Financial Times Book of the Year
show more

Review quote

My novel of the year ... an extraordinarily lyrical, moving, funny evocation of a Welsh mining town ... A terrific achievement -- A.N. Wilson * Financial Times Book of the Year * Spellbinding * Guardian * Gebbie's prose has something of the musical rhythm and cadence of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood ... a hypnotic debut * Independent * A striking first novel, poetic in style and funny ... reminiscent of Dylan Thomas at his best -- Readers' Books of the Year * Guardian * 'Tender and gripping - a brilliantly written epic' * Maggie Gee * 'Compulsively readable. She writes with such warmth and kindness and her poetic writing is meticulous in its apt and close observation' * Mari Strachan, author of The Earth Hums in B Flat * Powerful in its storytelling, touching in its view of small-town life, and bold in its stylised language * New Welsh Review *
show more

About Vanessa Gebbie

Vanessa has previously written two collections of short stories (published by Salt Publishers). She has also won numerous prizes for her short stories. An extract from The Coward's Tale won the Daily Telegraph Novel in a Year Competition. In addition, Vanessa has compiled a text book on the art of the short story (Short Circuit - published by Salt) which is now used by creative writing courses throughout the UK and elsewhere and which is endorsed by Bridport, Fish, The Asham Trust and the Frank O'Connor Award. Vanessa has read and performed workshops at numerous festivals, as well as being writer-in-residence at Stockholm University this year. Vanessa is Welsh but lives in Sussex.
show more

Rating details

293 ratings
4.09 out of 5 stars
5 41% (120)
4 36% (106)
3 16% (48)
2 3% (10)
1 3% (9)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X