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A new edition of this classic Welsh novel with an introduction by Professor Diana Wallace
Funny, lyrical and poignant, Shifts is a novel of the decline of industry and of the south Wales working class in the 1970s. It broke new ground on its appearance in combining a real, close-up depiction of work and ordinary lives with symbolic power and a wider imaginative reach.
Jack Priday, down-at-heel and almost down and out, returns to his hometown towards the end of the 1970s after a decade’s absence, just looking for a way to get by. His life becomes entangled with those of old friends Keith, Judith and O, and with the slow death throes of the male-dominated heavy industries that have shaped and defined the region and its people for almost two centuries.
As circumstances shift around them, the principals are forced to find some understanding of them and to confront their own secret natures. From multiple viewpoints, Shifts is a slowburning, controlled and intense examination of the relationship between our inner lives, the people around us and the forces of history.
'The energy in the novel comes from its unusual setting, and the author’s assured familiarity with it – he had himself worked there. But the assurance of the prose, in a first novel that never sounded like one, was down to pure talent.' Sheenagh Pugh
‘the prose is spare and poetic, at once plain and rich, musical in its rhythms of speech and clear descriptions... A beautiful, understated first novel’ The New York Times
‘Given his versatility as both poet and novelist and the ambitious breadth of his concerns, it is extraordinary that Meredith’s work is not yet better known outside Wales. He is a major writer whose work speaks directly, and urgently, to universal themes and concerns precisely because it is grounded in the specificity of a particular time and place. Shifts is a novel which helps us to know where we are now, and why, in relation to many complex issues: history, time, work, politics, love, betrayal and grief. It is also witty, compassionate, and brilliantly readable. If you don’t know Meredith’s writing yet, this is a good place to start.’ Diana Wallace
‘A first novel of consummate skill’ The Sunday Times
Christopher Meredith is an award-winning novelist, poet and translator. His first novel, Shifts was published to critical acclaim in 1988. He has broadcast on radio and TV and given readings and talks all round Britain as well as in Czechia, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Slovenia and the USA. Born and brought up in Tredegar and now living in Brecon, he has been a steelworker, a schoolteacher and a university professor.