Memoir of a life unlived

Sat, May 5, 2012, 01:00

Biography and fiction are beautifully balanced in Angharad Price’s gently re-imagined family memoir The Life of Rebecca Jones (MacLehose Press) in which an elderly woman looks back on her life spanning the 20th century and that of her family who have farmed the starkly magnificent Maesglasau Valley for close on 1,000 years. Three of Rebecca’s brothers are blind and this gives them a chance to go elsewhere to be educated while she and her eldest brother remain at the family farm. Two other siblings die young, yet Rebecca’s quiet mother is stoic and courageous.

Price’s meditative novel, with its hint of WG Sebald, not only honours her family, it acknowledges the death of rural life and the challenges facing the Welsh language. Translated from Welsh by novelist Lloyd Jones, the narrator in fact died in 1916 at the age of 11, so Angharad Price has not only given her ancestor a voice, she has presented her with the life she never had.