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Monthly Carcanet Books

This review is taken from PN Review 71, Volume 16 Number 3, January - February 1990.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY Caradoc Evans, Nothing to Pay (Carcanet) £12.95
Leslie Norris, The Girl from Cardigan (Seren) £9.95, £4.95 pb

Caradoc Evans's Nothing to Pay shatters anybody's belief in an idyllic past of close-knit communities living together in harmony. The novel focuses on the life of Amos Morgan, whose childhood and upbringing in a tiny village in south-west Wales give a vivid insight into family antagonisms, religious hypocrisy, the stifling of any individualistic inclinations, and the outrageous effects of absolute patriarchy.

Like Caradoc Evans himself, Amos starts off as an apprentice at a drapers' in Carmarthen, slowly working his way eastwards from seedy little shops at Barry Docks or in Cardiff to the fashionable stores of London's West End, where every draper's ambitions tend. While Evans hated his occupation, and eventually left it in 1905, Amos turns into the 'ideal shop-assistant'. Evans, praised by his fellow ex-draper H.G. Wells as one of the few writers to draw on experience as a shop-assistant, renders with graphic immediacy the squalor of the shops, over-long working-hours, despotic employers, dismissals without rhyme or reason, and unhealthy living-quarters.

When Evans's first collection of stories, My People, was published in 1915, it was received by the Welsh with the utmost hostility. In Nothing to Pay, published fifteen years later, they are again the butt of Evans's satire, disparaged as 'meek and mild hypocrites and born liars', rakes, and above all obsessed with money. In the novel Amos Morgan emerges as the archetypal miser and misanthrope who lives out the maxim that 'the only things which bring ineffable contentment are those for ...

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