In the early years of the last century, Rebecca is born into a rural community in the Maesglasau valley in Wales; her family have been working the land for a thousand years, but the changes brought about by modernity threaten the survival of her language, and her family's way of life.
Rebecca's reflections on the century are delivered with haunting dignity and a simple intimacy, while her evocation of the changing seasons and a life that is so in tune with its surroundings is rich and poignant.
The Life of Rebecca Jones has all the makings of a classic, fixing on a vanishing period of rural history, and the novel's final, unexpected revelation remains unforgettable and utterly moving.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 160 pages
- Publisher: Quercus Publishing
- Publication Date: 06/03/2014
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780857387127
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Review by SandDune
This is a book with consistently wonderful reviews. Nine out of the ten reviews on Amazon give it five stars (the other one gives in four): marvellous, wonderful, incredible are only some of the superlatives used. The Independent says it 'stands tall ... as a peak of modern British writing'; the Literary Review calls it 'marvellous'; World Literature Today says that 'Price's lyrical prose breathes an almost magical life into the narrative'. I honestly can't find a single bad review, not even one that's luke-warm. And I have looked because ... I don't like it that much.I feel that I have missed something magical which everyone else can see, as I really don't understand why this short novella (154 pages) should have gained quite so much acclamation.This is a fictionalised account of the Jones family of the Maesglasau valley in mid-Wales, from 1903 when Evan Jones brought his new wife Rebecca back to the farm of Tynybraich, until the early years of the twenty-first century. Told through the eyes of their eldest daughter, also named Rebecca, the novella traces the life of the valley and its inhabitants throughout the twentieth century. And as well as the changes that necessarily come into the valley as time progresses, the lives of three of the Jones children are forced by a cruel circumstance far from their Welsh speaking non-conformist roots. For after the birth of their eldest son, the next two sons were born blind and a third lost his sight at a very young age. That meant a boarding school education from a very young age for all three boys, an education that was necessarily in English, and took the sons far from the lives of their parents in their outlook and values. And meant too that there was no money left for the education of the other children, so that the eldest son, who wanted more than anything to be a doctor, had no choice but to farm as his father has done before him. The problem for me is that the book is so short and covers such a long period of time, that it often seems a mere listing of events, rather than investing those events with any emotional attachment. And although the descriptions are of the valley are beautiful, that isn't enough to make up for the lack of emotional attachment that I felt with the whole.This is a novel, although its characters are all real people, and indeed the book is interspersed with photographs of the people and places mentioned.The nature of its fictional character is not revealed until right at the end in an unexpected twist. The author Angharad Price is the great granddaughter of Evan and Rebecca Jones, and is introduced briefly towards the end of the book. This was translated from the original Welsh, and it's another Welsh book where I feel something is lost in translation. But whereas the last one Feet in Chains was well worth the read despite that, I didn't feel the same for this. But as I say, this is clearly a minority view.