A White Veil for Tomorrow [Rhwng Noson Wen a Phlygain]

Edwards, Sonia

At eighty-three pages, this is a short but very rewarding book that employs poetic prose, where the minister’s house is ‘chapel-proud and sober’ and has a ‘beetle-black telephone by the front door’.

As to subject matter, Sonia Edwards plays with eroticism by taking it out of its accustomed and legitimate channels, and at the heart of the book are several tender but difficult loves; one couple in fact are brother and sister, notwithstanding that the relationship is not physically expressed.

The brother is also son to a father who has forgotten, through the curse of Alzheimer’s, all but the most babyish of things but somehow still has — in Edwards’ vision — the tragic knowledge of his lost knowledge. In the dysfunctional world of A White Veil for Tomorrow the sister/loved-one is also damaged goods: a radiant and gentle thirty-year-old whose consciousness is forever trapped in a preternatural mental childhood. These unfortunate circumstances, though, are not the makings of some grim gutter novel of social work and psychoactive medication but are made into an opportunity to redraw the conscious everyday world. This is very beautiful and sensual stuff, but delicate, full of verbal felicity: ‘These are the very best mornings, shiny fresh ones and the paint on them not yet dry’.

Perhaps Edwards’ game is given away by the citation: ‘Isn’t it pain that inspires every writer?’ Inspiring work indeed and dare one suggest that if Sonia Edwards were a metropolitan writer in a metropolitan language she would be very widely known and appreciated.

Along with the intelligence and quality of her writing there are elements here that seem very Welsh; she loves emotions gone sour and congealed into a stain on present life (as in ‘Like the sun itself’ where a long-ago infidelity and its fruit daily taunt a husband and crimp a wife’s emotions). Here is the same close scent of the confined world that we find in Kate Roberts, even if the out-in-the-open dysfunctional nature of partners and people in Edwards’ world is far more contemporary.

A White Veil for Tomorrow has a curious and clever format, a kind of abbreviated episode-novel with the reach of a novel but the succinctness of a short story. The last story of the linked group that makes up the book, ‘Between a White Night and Daybreak’, pins down and ties together the story Edwards has to tell, leaving us inevitably moved. A great achievement. RK


You’ll leave the car and walk around a bit. Your mother has mentioned this place so often over the years. The little grey chapel on the slope, the row of tall houses with a dark dignity about them, looking out towards the sea. It’ll be like walking in between the pages of a story and getting a buzz out of  knowing that it wasn’t make-believe after all. Having clambered up the steep slope with its shoulder leaning towards the salty smells of the beach you’ll discover the sea for yourself. That will be disappointing; so far away — you won’t see much apart from long stretches of sand and a seagull or two like careless gobbets spat between the eyes of the grey pools. You’ll breathe in the stillness. This innite loneliness will open out in front of you, and the vastness will entice you to free your senses. The grey mysticism of this scene says you’ve been here before. You’ll feel the morning cold grip the nape of your neck while the landscape behind you inches beneath a wet hoar-frost. This will do you good. All this. This waiting. Standing here to stare. You’ll be doing the right thing. You wanted to belong.

You won’t feel the damp in your shoes until you get back to the car. It’s as if the morning itself insists upon clinging to the soles of your feet. You’ll feel strangely small, and the day too big around you; your mind will be brimming over with the vastness of the beach. Two, three miles beyond the village you’ll take a left turn off the main road. This road will be so narrow in places that there will be no room for two cars to pass each other. You’ll be eternally grateful that no other vehicle came towards you. And yet, the loneliness of these places will seem oppressive. The dark, winding, wooded roads. It will seem as though all the secrets of creation have been woven into the hedgerows.

You’ll try and begin to remember. Stories. Legends. Directions. An old water-mill. A sharp bend in the road. Past a couple of cottages, a kissing gate and a marsh. You’ll arrive too soon somehow. You’ll be there before having had time to prepare yourself, your car nosing its way hesitantly like a living thing between the two gateposts at the entrance. There won’t be a nameplate. Nothing to give it away. Only the clean, whitewashed walls making the windows of the house appear darker like sunglasses hiding the soul within. This will be Cae Aur.