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The Life of Rebecca Jones

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  194 ratings  ·  58 reviews
A poetic work of fiction on the one hand, an autobiography on the other, The Life of Rebecca Jones is a powerful, meditative work on one family's passage through the twentieth century. In the early years of the last century, Rebecca is born into a rural community in the Maesglasau valley in Wales; her family have been working the land for a thousand years, but the changes ...more
Hardcover, 159 pages
Published April 2012 by MacLehose Press (first published 2003)
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I will only water the content of this novel down by trying to write 'an activity' for it. It is one of those books that doesn't require any words of explanation.

- A farm in the remote valley of Maesglasau, east of Dolgellau in Merioneth, Wales;
- A family who occupied it for a thousand years when this book is finally written; - the continuance
of the family through the cycles of history - the last hundred years in particular.
- the genetic surprise - three blind brothers and a family
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rural-literature
This is a remarkable piece of work. Sometimes when you read a book it feels so familiar that you think you must have read it before. I felt this about Carr’s Month in the Country and about this book. The beginning of the Guardian review sets the scene:
“In 1964, BBC Wales made a short film about three brothers, blind from birth or infancy, raised on a farm in the lovely and remote valley of Maesglasau, east of Dolgellau in Merioneth. Their genetic fate both closed and opened doors. Special
That Angharad Price’s family have lived in the same Welsh valley for nearly a thousand years should be enough to ensure that this beautiful description of a century in the life of the valley is valued highly. Where else would we get such a loving and intimate record of a place that has known little change for generations upon generations. Price skilfully blends the history of her family, and in particular, of her great aunt, Rebecca Jones, into a hymn of praise to the valley itself so that we ...more

Without preamble, this goes immediately on the Read Again (And Again) shelf.

What treasures we find when we go rooting through goodreads' friends old reviews! I found this one hidden in Fionnuala's archives, sitting on a 2012 shelf, a silent and prim little Welsh girl ... the book, I mean, not Fionnuala!

Old souls there are among us, but rarely do they make themselves known. They are too wise by half to announce themselves; or boast vaingloriously of their travels through time. Once in a
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Roger Brunyate
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
A Month of Women Writers

[My actual review of this slim novel-memoir follows below after the divider. But I want first to say a few words about the project that it brings to a close.]

May was my month of reading only literature by women. I missed the first week, so have gone a week into June; both months have women's names, so same difference. I started the streak by accident, but continued because, for whatever reason, my proportion of female authors this year had sunk below 30%, and I prefer to
Diane Barnes
Aug 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fictional autobiography with a twist. Such beautiful writing that these 176 pages feel like a 500 page family saga. Rebecca Jones narrates the story of her family, including her 3 blind brothers, and their 1000 year old farm in Wales. Being poor and suffering hardships was never an excuse not to see the beauty in the world, even if that world is just a few square miles in size.

"I have felt the rough fist of misfortune and the soft palm of joy. I learned that the price of having is losing".
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
My grandmother’s memoirs were written better than this. I loved my grandmother very much, and you would have to love the protagonist of this novel a whole heck of a lot to give a rat’s ass about the mundanities so dully narrated here. Bailed a fifth of the way in.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A moving story about a Welsh family in the first half of the 20th century. I spent many a year with Welsh friends in that area, so it felt like coming home. It's a worthy tribute to the little Rebecca Jones.
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
I spotted Angharad Price's The Life of Rebecca Jones when browsing the library. It is an entry upon my 2017 reading list, and when easing it out from the shelves where it was sandwiched between two rather enormous tomes, I was surprised to see how slim it was. Its 'powerful meditation on one family's passage through the 20th century', and the modern world which serves to threaten their traditional rural life in Wales, sounded absolutely lovely. I adore quiet novels which take me to a different ...more
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Anna by: Paul
Shelves: fiction, welsh-lit
After what may have been an excess of non-fiction, I found the 90 minutes spent reading this novella pleasantly soothing. It is a simple tale of a woman born in rural Wales a the start of the 20th century. Positive as the experience was, however, I did not find it particularly exceptional, despite the blurb proclaiming it ‘an instant classic when first published’. This made me consider what makes a novel ‘classic’ and what virtues a classic novel is usually expected to embody. ‘The Life of ...more
Viv JM
I liked this short book for its quiet grace and gentle beauty. It reads much like a memoir although is a fictional account based on the author's own family tree. Recommended if you are looking for something slightly wistful and poignant to read.
Jenny Lloyd
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Well. That was a fast read! But then this is nearer to the length of a novella than a novel.

This was another find in the Hay Festival bookshop. From the moment I began reading it, I began to question. Is this a novella or a biography? It reads like a biography, it even has photographs of real-life places portrayed in Rebecca's story. Yet, the narrator is Rebecca Jones. So is it an autobiography? No, because we know the author is Angharad Price, not Rebecca Jones. These niggling doubts about
This came recommended to me by a bookseller in Wales and I'm glad I took her suggestion. (I was looking for a Welsh author/publisher that I wouldn't most likely be able to get in the States.) This book is a classic of Welsh literature and was only recently translated into English. Set not too far from where we stayed and explored, it really enhanced my trip--the descriptions of place are beautiful and real. It may seem strange but I recommend this to anyone who loves Little House on the Prairie ...more
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the wonders of the precious library service is that a reader can browse the shelves and find entirely randomly a wonderful little book which I had never heard of and was beautifully written and in its 150 pages captures a so concisely the life of a farming family in a Welsh valley yet covers so much more about the meaning of life itself. The heroine Rebecca Jones was a real person who in the late nineteenth century is born to the newly wed Evan Jones and his bride rebecca, they move as ...more
Sep 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can see why The Life of Rebecca Jones is already being called a Welsh classic. The translator has done a great job of turning this book into an English edition. Angharad Price blurrs the line between real life and fiction, creating a compelling narrative. Price tells the story of the Jones family, the sacrifices they make to allow the lives of their blind children as full as possible and the adaptations a rural Welsh village have to make as lifestyles change and technology advances. The ...more
Chelsea Hagen
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend lent me this book it's a book with one page is in Welsh and then the next page the English. She wanted me to read this book because part of the story is about three blind boys who overcame their disability and became successful back in Cwm Wales 1912. But this was not the part I really enjoyed. I really liked the narrator Rebecca who talks about her life in Wales and I really loved how the author had an unexpected twist at the end. I see why it was Wales book of the year. I really ...more
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Another book that left to my own devises I probably wouldn't have read, let alone bought. Sometimes you need a good friend's recommendation to get you started. Part truth part fiction, full of tragedy and love, twists and revelations, and some of the most beautifully descriptive writing I've read in a long time! With such powerful narration in the English translation, I have no doubt that in her native Welsh language the beautiful prose would have been breathtaking! A story that will stay with ...more
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Not sure the mix of biography/autobiography and fiction really came together properly, but really enjoyed it nonetheless, and it is certainly very well written.
HelenDolly Plumb
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
This book was a bit odd. It reads like it's a true story, with references to family and how Rebecca's brothers went on to get married and have children but with no embellishment which suggests it's real, but it claims to be fiction. I found out what it really was at the end after I had finished reading it. There are poetic sections which are enjoyable and the history is interesting but I couldn't really see the point of what the author did with Rebecca's character and felt it was a bit morbid.
Feb 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
As the title may give away, The Life of Rebecca Jones tells the story of Rebecca Jones and her family’s journey through the twentieth century.

In 1905, Rebecca was born into a Welsh family in the rural community of Maesglasau valley, in Dinas Mawddwy, Wales. It has been her family’s ancestral home for a thousand years, but the changes of modern life threaten not only her family’s way of life, but their language too.

Three of Rebecca’s younger brothers are born with a genetic blindness and, while
Aug 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Here is quite possibly the most obscure reference that I’ve possibly come up with, whilst reading “The Life of Rebecca Jones” I couldn’t help but think of “The Deposition of Father McGreevy” by Brian O’Doherty, a shortlisted Man Booker Prize novel from 2000. Why? I really have no idea? One is set in a rural Irish community, with no females remaining in the community, the other a female tale in Welsh? Funny how the human mind works.

“The Life of Rebecca Jones” is translated from the Welsh, and
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
I randomly discovered this book at my local library and am glad that I did as it is a little gem. I very much enjoyed the author's writing style and especially enjoyed her descriptions of scenery and life in a rural Welsh valley. In fact, it has made me want to visit Wales now!

The idea of writing a story about her own great-aunt and her family was something I liked a lot, moreso because one can clearly gather from the book that the author has a great love for her family and the rich history and
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
This short novel is extraordinarily beautiful, forceful and peaceable at the same time. I read it in two sharp bursts on a autumn Sunday, smiling often and blurring up with tears twice. At first it doesn't seem as if there is much here but it repays thought and patience. I'm sorry that Angharad Price' other novels haven't been translated from Welsh.
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
A strange and quite charming memoir disguised as fiction disguised as memoir... with a little twist at the end which makes the invisibility of the single, middle-aged protagonist suddenly poignant...2 1/2 stars
Helen and Daisy Harris
Mar 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is beautifully and simply written. It reminded me of Cider with Rosie in the way it describes a disappearing way of life. Really affecting revelation at the end - do not read the last page first.
Jan 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book. Very short (100 pages?) but beautifully written. Didn't see the ending coming at all. Disclaimer: if you read this DON'T look at the end in advance, it will ruin your enjoyment of the book.
Jul 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2013, five-stars
Wonderfully written novella on the life of Rebecca Jones.
Apr 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Beautiful story of a girl and her family living and working in a valley in north Wales. Lots of period and descriptions of nature. Quite a few 'oh no' moments too.
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This really is a modern classic. It was recommended to me because I like historical timeslip and reincarnation stories and that was the basis on which I bought it, but it wasn’t that at all. In any case, I had a lovely surprise. It is the story of the author’s ancestors in a remote Welsh valley; Rebecca was real, but I knew what happened to her before reading so there was no twist in the tale for me; in actual fact I don’t think the end of book revelation makes any difference to the story.

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Angharad Price teaches at Bangor University and is the author of three novels.