USW’s Professor Diana Wallace was part of the judging panel which selected the texts for Wales Arts Review.
The series is partly a response to the BBC’s 2019 series entitled ‘The Novels That Shaped Our World’ which listed 100 English-language page-turners. Part of a year-long celebration of literature, the BBC’s list, selected by a panel of six leading writers, curators and critics, included a wide range of fiction from contemporary works such as Bridget Jones’s Diary to classics like Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend. But, surprisingly, it included only one text by a writer who might be considered Welsh.
"I’d seen the BBC’s list," Diana says, "And been interested by how diverse and eclectic it was in terms of gender and race. But I was really surprised, and pretty irritated, that the nearest thing to a Welsh book included was Roald Dahl’s The Witches. It’s a great children’s book but it’s not in any way representative of Wales. Dahl was born and brought up in Cardiff but spent most of his life in England. It seemed an extraordinary oversight. So I was delighted when Wales Arts Review asked me to be part of a judging panel for their own list."
The Wales Arts Review list uses the same categories as the BBC so the books are grouped thematically. The first selection focuses on ‘Coming of Age’ and includes ten books by writers as different as Nikita Lalwani, Dylan Thomas, Alan Garner and Eiluned Lewis.
Diana says: "Lists are provocative – there’s always something you think has been left out or something you don’t already know. Eiluned Lewis writes brilliantly about growing up in a now bygone Pembrokeshire. But unlike, say Dylan Thomas, she’s barely known outside Wales. And that’s the point here - to provoke debate and draw attention to the extraordinarily rich, varied and unique fiction in and of Wales."