Winter, 1904, and feisty twenty-one-year old Ellen has been summoned back from her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the family farm on windswept Gower, in a last bid to prevent the impending death of her alcoholic father.
On her return, she finds the family in disarray. Ailing William is gambling away large swathes of Thomas land; frustrated Eleanor is mourning the husband she once knew; and Ellen’s younger twin brothers face difficult choices.
Ellen, tasked with putting her family’s lives in order, finds herself battling one impossible decision after another. Resourceful, passionate, and forthright, can she remain in Gower, where being female still brings with it so many limitations? Can she endure being so close to her lost love? Will she choose home and duty, or excitement and opportunity across the Atlantic?
I loved this book for so many reasons. Jane Fraser’s writing style is superb; the story is a good one, the characters well rounded, the dialogue immediately summons up each of them, the descriptions evoke instant images.There is not one word wasted.
The protagonist, Ellen, is multi layered, the reader becomes aware of her fragility, both emotionally and physically as the story progresses. She has striven to distance herself from her family’s needs, from a lost love, by going to America – yet still,on her return to the farm, she is drawn in by those needs, by that love.
To paraphrase a sentence in the book, “long days, short time.’ – the story only covers a brief six months, but each day is long, each day needs to be endured, dealt with by Ellen. New decisions have to be made. And all the while we are listening to her internal dialogue: learning her history, of her relationship with those in her life, getting to know them through her eyes; discovering how each fits into the society and era of Wales in the early twentieth century, what is expected of them. How, in the past, through no fault of her own, she didn’t fit in, and now refuses to succumb to others’ expectations.
What I most admire about this author’s writing is the brevity of words in bringing the background, the setting, the weather, to life on the page. A sentence, here and there of poetic prose immediately evokes a sense of place. Wonderful.
Whilst I realise that, for some readers, there may be not enough background fleshed out – and it’s difficult for me not to give spoilers here – ( i.e. Ellen’s life before America and her life there) – I felt the subtlety of the writing that covers both of these events was enough for me and the absence of that backdrop doesn’t take anything away from the story.
Advent is a book that will stay with me for a long time. I have no hesitation in recommending it to any reader who loves a well written historical family story.
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To read more about Jane, please visit the interview she gave previously on my blog: http://bit.ly/3fxNPX4