Angharad Price: why I wrote THE LIFE OF REBECCA JONES

Angharad Price at the launch of her book in Aberystwyth.jpg

Angharad Price on the family history that inspired The Life of Rebecca Jones

"I wrote O, Tyn y Gorchudd (“O! pull aside the veil”), later to be translated as The Life of Rebecca Jones, at a time of concern, reflection and personal grief. It was the turn of the twenty-first century. Foot and mouth disease was ravaging the Welsh countryside, heightening concern about the decline of rural communities and long-established ways of life. As I watched the apocalyptic scenes of burning cattle, legs upturned, on the news each evening, my thoughts turned inevitably to Maesglasau valley in mid-Wales where my mother's family had farmed for a thousand years – according to the family Bible – and continued to do so.

            I was also mourning the loss of my grandmother, Olwen, who had come to live on the farm during the Second World War. The book is, in many ways, a tribute to her equable and generous spirit, even in the face of the valley's steep inclines. Her husband, my grandfather, had three brothers, blind from birth, whose childhood had oscillated between life in rural, nonconformist, Welsh-speaking Maesglasau and an anglicised schooling at the Worcester College for the Blind. Their parents grappled with fate in divergent ways, whilst my bookish grandfather, their only sighted son, became the reluctant heir to a millennium of farming. The memory of his head, hair still dark and abundant into his eighties, buried in a work of politics or history, remains with me to this day.

            My grandfather's sister, Rebecca Jones, recounts the family's story and that of the valley itself. In many ways, it is emblematic of broader human concerns, for Maesglasau, too, has felt the consequences of global events. Spanning the twentieth century, this is a tale of hardship and happiness, of world and the Word, and of a struggle for continuity that extends to the present day, in this beautiful but little-known corner of Wales."

 

Angharad Price is a novelist, critic and translator, and now Senior Lecturer in the School of Welsh at Bangor University. Her first novel Tania’r Tacsi, was published in 1999, followed in 2002 by O! Tyn y Gorchudd, translated here at The Life of Rebecca Jones. A third novel, Caersaint, was shortlisted for the Welsh Arts Council Book of the Year in 2011.

Elise Williams