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Gwybodaeth Lyfryddol
Library of Wales: Kingdom, A
James Hanley
ISBN: 9781908946539 (1908946539)Dyddiad Cyhoeddi Mawrth 2013
Cyhoeddwr: Parthian Books, Aberteifi
Fformat: Clawr Meddal, 216x140 mm, 222 tudalen Iaith: Saesneg Ar gael Ein Pris: £8.99 
Does dim Adolygiad Cwsmer i'r teitl hwn.
 
Ysgrifennwch Adolygiad Cwsmer
Nofel gan James Hanley (1897-1985); adargraffiad yn y gyfres Library of Wales.

A haunting, elegiac evocation of hill-farm life, from its very first line A Kingdom is preoccupied with the connotations surrounding the word 'rooted' and with what it means, for good and ill, to be tied to such a place.
Reading this book is like stepping into an unknown country. A Kingdom is set in an unspecified but fairly modern era and the Welsh setting is recognisable although unnamed. There are objects and concepts that are familiar to us such as cars, telegrams, friendship and marriage, so what is it that makes readers feel so far from their comfort zone?

The sentence structure is unsettling. The grammar is perfectly correct, but I have never read anything phrased like this. I was put on my guard, alert for trouble; I knew this was not going to be a cosy story ending happily ever after. James Hanley does not seduce the reader with slick entertainment but writes about human relationships in beautiful, stark, spare language.

Hanley was born in Liverpool in 1897. The son of a stoker, he went to sea at the age of 17 and then served briefly in the Canadian army during the First World War. In 1931, Hanley moved to Wales where he lived for over thirty years, apart from a few months in London at the beginning of the Second World War. He wrote searingly realistic accounts of working-class life inspired by his upbringing close to the Liverpool docks, his life at sea and in Wales, his much-beloved adopted country.

Published in 1978, A Kingdom was his last novel. It is set in Wales, as were The Welsh Sonata (1954) and Another World (1972), but was written at a distance as Hanley had been living in London since 1963. A Kingdom has been described as ‘an elegy to a dying way of life, that of hill farming in Wales’. In tone it is quietly and unobtrusively lyrical, possibly influenced by the poetry of his friend R. S. Thomas. Here Hanley demonstrates his mastery of style and use of language, and the reader can appreciate the maturity of this novel compared with The Welsh Sonata written over twenty years before.

Triggered by the death of their father, the events in A Kingdom concern the brief reunion of two sisters for the funeral. Cadi escaped from the stranglehold of her father’s demands and the relentless work on their remote smallholding to marry an Englishman. Her life of small comforts shows in her outward appearance, and her self-seeking, lazy nature in her peevish complaints and conversations with her husband. Lucy is the elder daughter who gave up her teaching job to keep house for her father when Cadi left home. She has embraced that way of life and determines to stay on after the death of her father.

I found myself wanting to urge Lucy to stand up for her rights, to go out and discover the richness and opportunities of life in the larger world, whilst simultaneously despising Cadi for having done just that. Their spare dialogue and largely unspoken thoughts and feelings portray a depth of character and offer a glimpse of past history far greater than the brief details should warrant. Although none of the characters are attractive or loveable, they are extremely engaging, and the reader comes to care about them, tantalised by the brief details given in this small snapshot of their lives.

Catriona Jackson


It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Bywgraffiad Awdur:
James Hanley was born into a Liverpool-Irish family in 1897. He served at sea (and briefly in the Canadian army) during the First World War, worked at various jobs, educated himself, and began publishing fiction in the 1930s – most notoriously Boy (1931), an unsparing account of sexual abuse on board merchant ships, which became the subject of an obscenity trial. He produced a dauntingly large output some 20 novels, plays, volumes of stories, and radio dramas, and was held in the highest regard by other novelists, including E. M. Forster, V. S. Pritchett, and Doris Lessing; his reputation was for uncompromisingly realistic accounts of working-class life (The Furys, 1935), of situations of extreme privation (The Ocean, 1941), and for compellingly intense, Camus-like portrayals of alienation and disengagement (Levine, 1956). A Kingdom was his last completed work, and he died in London in 1985.
Gwybodaeth Bellach:
An elderly farmer dies, following an accident on a remote mid-Wales smallholding, leaving the kingdom he had ruled over so fiercely to his two daughters, Lucy and Cadi.


As they prepare for the funeral, the novel charts the courses whereby each sister came to be what she now is; Lucy, the one that got away, fleeing the farm secretly and without warning, never to see the old man again, and Cadi, who promptly gave up her job as a teacher in Manchester to take Lucy’s place in her father’s lonely, narrow world, beginning a pattern of guilt, self-submission, self-reliance, and occluded rage that would last until his death.
Does dim Adolygiad Cwsmer, hyd yma, i'r llyfr hwn.
 
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