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Showing posts from January, 2022

My Month in Books: January 2022

My selections for this month are two wonderful novels which, though set in very different milieus, both explore themes of marriage, family and powerlessness: Feet in Chains by Kate Roberts, translated by Katie Gramich (Parthian, 2021, first published as Traed Mewn Cyffion , 1936); and They Were Sisters, Dorothy Whipple (Persephone Books, 2005, first published 1943). Feet in Chains , Kate Roberts, Translated by Katie Gramich (Parthian, 2021, first published as Traed Mewn Cyffion , 1936) Feet in Chains tells the story of Jane and Ifan Gruffydd as they struggle to keep body and soul together on their small holding near Caernarfon, and raise their three daughters and three sons. Ifan is a quarryman, at the mercy of powerful employers who can lower wages or increase hours at will. But it isn’t only economics that drives their unjust treatment of their workers: favouritism and old grudges also play a part. At the start of the novel, the couple are just married. Jane is a showily dr

Winifred Coombe Tennant and Whittinghame

Back in 2016 when I first started researching the life of Welsh suffragist Winifred Coombe Tennant (1874-1956) I visited the West Glamorgan archives in Swansea to look at the Coombe Tennant papers held there. These included a diary, in the form of loose papers, that Winifred had kept during a visit to Whittinghame, Prestonkirk, Scotland in 1923.   Whittinghame was the family estate of the Balfour family. Winifred was there at the invitation of Gerald William Balfour (1853-1945) and his wife, Lady Betty (1867-1942). Balfour was a Conservative politician, brother to prime minister Arthur Balfour ( 1848–1930 ), and a psychic researcher. Lady Betty was a suffragist, sister of the militant Lady Constance Lytton, and was also interested in spiritualism. I found Winifred’s handwriting quite hard to read, but I did manage to decipher a description of a walk she took on the estate with Gerald Balfour. There she saw yew trees, which she loved. Balfour, she recorded, cut a sprig from one of t