It is winter 1904 and Ellen Thomas has returned from service in New York to her family in Gower to try and save the farm and her father from ruin. He has taken to drink and gambling away the land and the future hopes of the family. Ellen, strong and determined, is their hope of salvation.
But, it is too late and her father dies leaving more problems to solve. Her return is bittersweet for Ellen as the love of her life, Richard, is still a part of the local society and it is inevitable they will meet. He has not married but his father opposes their union on account of a belief in Ellen’s infertility.
Everyone relies on Ellen. It seems she is the lynchpin holding them together. Eleanor, her mother; her younger twin brothers, Jack and George, her grandmother, and even her married sister Hannah all depend on her making the right decisions. She is frustrated by the limitations of her sex. As a woman her forthright approach is not always regarded as seemly, and she is drawn back to New York where she can seize other opportunities in life.
This is a story where the nature of the landscape plays a part. The Gower in winter is inhospitable, wild and treacherous. Relentless rain and penetrating cold all add to the atmosphere. Farming is an onerous task and land precious. Ellen is clever, resourceful and determined to live life the way she wants, despite society’s expectations. A truly powerful protagonist.
Advent is published by Honno. This is Jane Fraser’s debut novel, a story set in the beginning of the last century.