Two book deal - Please and Still

Christopher Meredith
9781781726167 / 9781781726143
Publication Date: 
Thursday, April 8, 2021
No votes yet

‘To publish two such accomplished and deeply rewarding books simultaneously is a remarkable achievement.’ – Planet

Award-winning novelist and poet Christopher Meredith publishes two new books simultaneously. Order them both as a set for the discounted price of £15.00. 

Christopher Meredith’s new poetry collection Still, uses the title word as a fulcrum to balance various paradoxical concerns: stillness and motion, memory and forgetting, sanity and madness, survival and extinction. Lively and thought-provoking, this is a beautifully crafted, humane and intelligent collection. 

“Lyrical, always surprising, Meredith 'fixes stillness' in absences here. His perfect ear tunes in so precisely – especially to the natural world, it's 'edge of sense' – we are left haunted á la Frost, by a deep lonliness in the human condition.” – Paul Henry

‘By any yardstick, Still is a major achievement’ – The Yorkshire Times


In the short novel Please, Octogenarian language geek Vernon, who’s never written a book, tries to find a way to write the story of his long marriage to Hannah. Under the comic surface of Vernon’s pompous voice hides a story of murderous fantasy, obsession, passion and regret. A verbally brilliant tragicomic short novel with some surprising twists and a moving denouement. 

“Meredith at his darkest and funniest. This is the work of a master.” – Tom Bullough

“The most wry, witty and wicked novel I expect to read this year.” – Sheenagh Pugh


Review by Carin Clevidence, The Common

Sunday, November 14, 2021

I’ve always loved reading work by writers from other countries, and the particular pleasure of being transported through language to an unfamiliar place. Just before the start of the pandemic I began reading Christopher Meredith, a contemporary Welsh novelist and poet, author of GriffriThe Book of Idiots, Brief Lives, and others. His most recent novel Please, published this year, is narrated by an octogenarian amateur sailor obsessed with language named Vernon Jones. I was hooked from the first sentence: “Punctuation killed my wife.”

In a darkly funny, meandering, auto-didactically erudite voice, Vernon tells us of his love for Hannah, the ups and downs of their marriage, his affection for the letter V. The story, meaty and layered, is studded with insights and unexpected turns. There is sex and betrayal, work, loss, existential loneliness, ambition, grammar, “the stuff of life that both hardens and softens us.” The writing is an utter delight, the work of a master enjoying his facility with words.

Toward the end of the book, musing on etymological connections between the words for love and care in English, Welsh, and Latin, Vernon says, “We have here some slight sign of the cousinage of tongues, of those webs of concepts and associations, somehow spun by many purblind spiders in a fumbling darkness crawling insensibly over and among one another without sense of precedence or order, which occasionally gleam in flitting daylights upon our understanding as they intersect and bifurcate. Fleetingly we behold how words in these trembling threads attempt…to ensnare the mysterious stuff of life.” This stunningly good book does just that.

Review by Joshua Rees, Buzz Magazine

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

This month sees two brilliant new releases from Christopher Meredith, one of the best and most productive writers working in Wales today. Please is an elegant, funny, and moving novel about love and loss. Our pedantic, pleonastic protagonist, Vernon, is an octogenarian coming to terms with the death of his wife. The novel opens memorably with a typically droll, Vernon-like assertion: “Punctuation killed my wife.”

Following his bereavement, Vernon seeks solace in the other love of his life: language. Having never before committed his thoughts to paper, he decides to trace and evaluate the course of his relationship with his wife, from their initial meet-cute in a shoe shop in the 1960s, to the tempestuous middle-years of their marriage and its eventual sad end. Vernon is complicated, flawed, but not wholly unlikeable company.What emerges is a story about a man who has hidden behind words for most of his life, and how he learns that not even words can keep the world at bay forever. Please could perhaps be best compared to the work of another writer known for their deft linguistic playfulness and invention, Eley Williams.

As if writing an excellent new novel wasn’t enough, Meredith has also produced Still, a superb new collection of poems that again exemplifies his mastery of the written word. As with Please, the poems dwell on memory and loss, among many other things. But unlike Vernon’s lengthy and digressive diaristic recollections, the writing here is spare and subtle. The unsaid is as important as the said.

These are poems about the ways we occupy the world, or as Meredith puts it, “the shape we make in time”.  Despite some moments of introspection, Still is a much less insular piece of work than Please: these are poems that dare to comprehend the sheer vastness of the world. They also consider how we can achieve permanence in spite of our impermanence. One of the strongest poems, On Allt Yr Esgair, suggests that art may be the answer: “Under the serpent galaxy / the motifs of stone hills recur / in scoops and curls across the sky… What else is left for us but this? / With pen and brush to shape our track / like moths and hills and streams and stars / a human shadow on the rock”.

Still is a quiet, contemplative book which offers no certainties aside from the fact that Meredith’s words deserve to outlive his time.

Review of Please by Sheenagh Pugh

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

‘The one about the past being another country. Not that I believe it for a second. It’s not even another tense nowadays.’

Our narrator Vernon Jones, an autodidact who worked as a clerk and is now retired and reflecting on his past, is unusually fascinated by everything about words: their etymology, syntax, punctuation, ambiguities. He is aware that his interest borders on obsession, and he has a dry wit that enlivens his every utterance. I shall probably never again think of a telephone box except by the noun he uses to describe it here:

“She rang me at work. We did not have a telephone at home; almost no one of my acquaintance did at that date. She rang from a quaint gazebo, now almost extinct, called a telephone box.”

I may also try to use fewer ellipses, or, as he calls them, “those wretched trails of sheep droppings”.

Vernon is, as one might expect in such a narrator, also very aware of the narrative techniques he is using, and draws our attention to them in a playful homage to Tristram Shandy. “To return to that gentleman whom we left hesitating some hundreds of words ago” echoes Sterne’s way of returning contritely to characters he has left halfway up a staircase for several chapters, and Vernon also has his habit of warning us not to read inattentively:

“And finally, I drew your attention directly and unambiguously to the potential for evasion and ambiguities in adoption of the present tense even as I so adopted it!”

It will be clear by now both that this is a very funny book (at least, I find it so, for me it is one of those I might hesitate to read on a train for fear of constant audible merriment) and that it has a lot to do with time and with how we interpret and fictionalise reality. Its concerns are at bottom serious and its humour often quite dark: “Little Robin was given my name and was thus saved from a lifetime of being Robin Finch, an unfortunate double birdie that his parents had not spotted” was one place where I laughed out loud, but it describes the name-change of a child whose parents have split up. It should also be clear that the narrative techniques allow of “evasion and ambiguities” which result in reveals, some sudden, some more gradual, which is why I shall say little about plot, except that this feature reminded me of earlier novels of Meredith’s in which character-narrators like Dean of The Book of Idiots and the eponymous Griffri realise toward the end of their narrative that what they thought they knew about their lives was in many ways mistaken. It culminates, as did Griffri, with a powerfully moving and enlightening encounter between two people, and throughout the novel the tone darkens, with Vernon having to apply his observational gifts to more sober themes than etymology:

“I had an agéd colleague once who gave up fishing on retirement, even though he had planned to angle his way through his last years, because he found he could no longer bring himself to kill the silver darlings in his hands. So the old are often more likely to be moved and lachrymose than those of middle years. We who are nearer the end better grasp the nature of suffering and the suffering of nature, and the dreadful fragility of both the somatic and the psychic.”

Even here, though, he enjoys balancing clauses and indulging his love for archaisms and recondite words. 

I compiled a page full of quotes while reading through this novel, with a view to using them in a review, and I still have half of them unused. It’s that sort of novel. I can’t resist one more: Vernon at his obsessed, self-aware and solipsistic best. When the author emailed me the text, he introduced his protagonist with “Meet the appalling Vernon”. Well, I did, and found him a delight.

“As my name is Vernon – a fact which I have already artfully fed to you in the speech of my old friend Mick Sayce (see above) – I have from childhood had an interest in the occurrence of this relatively rare letter. It is modest in its specialness, having none of the bravura (ha!) hyper-scarcity of, say, x. Its nearest rival (ha! again) among alleged consonants is, arguably, the letter q, but v has none of q’s sickly dependence upon its almost inseparable partner u. Moreover v has a seductively shifting and mercurial personality. Indeed, in certain circumstances v and u slip identities, as demonstrated in the delightful Germanic tendency to pronounce the word quite as kvite. In modern Welsh the letter v does not exist. (Neither, technically, does the letter j. As a Welshman called Vernon Jones I should feel some anxiety at the way in which my names enact a partial cultural vanishing, but I am too old for that.)”

User Reviews

Sorry there are no reviews yet for this book