Random Deaths and Custard, Paperback
4 out of 5 (2 ratings)


A humorous novel telling the story of Sam Jones, a bilingual valleys' girl.

With its comic darkness and its write-as-she-speaks style, this is a novel that will have you laughing and crying.

Reprint; first published November 2007.




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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

I randomly picked this out at the library because the cover and title were bizarre, at my library all the welsh fiction is labelled with a tiny welsh flag on the spine. The back cover recounts that Catrin Dafydd has attempted to write a novel in the English and Welsh language. So how successful is she?The main character is Samanatha, 18, who lives on the Blaena Estate in the Rhondda. Samantha works at the local Custard Factory testing custard. Sam lives with her Mum who cries a lot, her Nanna who speaks welsh and spends her time watching S4C, the Welsh language channel, including the illustrious Pobol Y Cwm (mix Last of the Summer Wine, Emmerdale and Eastenders and plonk it in Carmarthenshire and you will have a similar soap) and the cat Tom Tom who is devoted to Nanna. Sam seems like a very mature 18 year old, she doesn't really go out drinking in Cardiff! Sam learnt Welsh in school but she has forgotten a lot of it. Sam's Dad is in prison and her brother Gareth is in the army. Sam has a host of friends Arse, Maggie who are funny characters. I could see a bit of myself in Sam, not being part of the Welshy Welsh contingent! this means I can speak Welsh, because I learnt in school, but I have no reason to speak it every day and sometimes feel the language slipping away, especially if I try to write in Welsh. To the "anglicized" Welsh like Sam, the Welshy Welsh can appear to be patronising. When Sam is asked to translate posters into Welsh at Custards she reluctantly agrees, but is then humiliated by the Commission when the grammar on the posters on the side of lorries is wrong.Sam's parents have split up and I suppose the book isn't just about Welshness but about growing up and coping with change. Sam keeps experiencing "random deaths", where she almost dies - it seems like her labelling these accidents e.g. landing in a bowl of custard, as accidents is a way to channel her anxieties, or something like that.....I enjoyed the book, it is funny, close to home and has a point to make. I was going to go for three 1/2 stars.

Review by

From the moment this book was created, it was destined that as soon as I saw it, I'd pick it up. Firstly, the cover is designed such that at a distance it looks like a well known brand of custard powder - I do love my custard, mun. Secondly, this novel is set in the South Wales valleys and the main character is a welsh speaker of anglicized working class background. That doesn't mean, of course, that I had to *like* the book. In fact, I wanted to hate it. In many ways, it was the book *I* should have written, had I ever written a book (sigh, maybe one day). However, I put my jealousy to one side and I'll be honest, I thought it was clever and well-crafted without being showy. It was written in dialect which I often find irritating and indeed on the first page, when I realised this, I had a bit of an inward sigh. But it was decently done, and I got over it. In fact, I can see it was necessary in order to really put the narrator in context.The story was interesting with enough going on to keep me happy while reading. I had a bit of a problem with the ending, where I think the story just faded away. I'm a bit of a philistine, I do like a proper ending. Quite a few bits of Welsh scattered throughout but it's translated where necessary or otherwise the meaning indicated, so non-Welsh speakers should be happy enough. Good, realistic characters. Duw duw, I know these kinds of people!However, I'm biased, so I admit I can't speak for how much appeal this book would have to someone who isn't familiar with the area and the people and the culture (for instance, that weird clash between the anglicized Welsh and the Welshy Welsh).

Also by Catrin Dafydd