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A man's estate - Emyr Humphreys

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A man's estate
Emyr Humphreys
Paperback / softback
UK Publication Date

The sixth title in the landmark series of classics, the Library of Wales. A novel about Hannah Elis, a thirty-five year old woman who lives under the powerful hold of her stepfather on the family farm. She yearns for the return of her long-banished brother Philip, believing he will rescue her from the bleakness. However, his arrival heralds passions and upheaval in the community.

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A Man's Estate is the vexed Matter of Wales as seen through the unflinching gaze of that Wales' greatest novelist Emyr Humphreys.
Hannah Ellis is thirty-five, unmarried and still living at Y Glyn, the family farm in Wales where she has been brought up by her mother and step-father, a forbidding man with a powerful hold on the neighborhood. Loving her country, yet resenting the egotism of her family, she yearns for the return of her long-banished brother Philip, believing that he will rescue her from this bleak existence. But Hannah little realises that Philip's arrival is imminent, and is to herald enormous changes as he unwittingly ignites the passions and strengths of an unusually intertwined community.
Publisher: Parthian Books

Pennant, a small town in North Wales, seems held in the grip of pre-war, Nonconformist respectability; ruled by the stern influence of the Elises of Y Glyn. Half-hidden secrets of their lives and loves and those of their thwarted children lead to explosive retribution. Around them is the strong continuity of farm life. The ironically titled novel is an intense family saga of dark passions, sordid details and desperate loneliness.

The story is narrated by the three children of Elis Felix Elis M.P. (who died thirty years earlier) and by Idris Powell, the young minister of Pennant's chapel. All of these are partial and self-deceiving to some extent. Hannah, though the most perceptive and generally well-intentioned, several times precipitates tragedy, like one of Ibsen's characters removing the 'saving lie' which has kept the building together.

While lacking the Gothic horror of Caradoc Evans's work, Emyr Humphreys describes the last days of a not dissimilar society but with a sardonic compassion for its characters. The absurdity of Idris Powell's predicaments has comedy but, seen through his eyes, also pain. Ada, whom others see as a calculating destroyer, reveals herself as more abused than the abuser. However, her narrative is perhaps the least well written, her tone of voice not so convincing as the others. Mrs Elis really remains the dark witch throughout, but Vavasor Elis is a touching portrait of a good man maimed.

The landscape and life of the farm are well described but, because of the narrative structure, remain very much a background to the family tragedy. Emyr Humphreys spoke of a novelist 'embracing a society with love and criticism'. He observes the physical world with loving attention, the moral shifts of the human heart with sharpness and sympathy, but he depicts a small-town society hollow and rotten, with little to celebrate.
Caroline Clark @

Keyword Index
Family farms - Wales - Fiction.|Brothers and sisters - Wales - Fiction.
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