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James Hanley

A Kingdom

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An elderly farmer dies, following an accident on a remote  mid-Wales smallholding, leaving the kingdom he had ruled over so fiercely to his two daughters, Lucy and Cadi.    


As they prepare for the funeral, the novel charts the courses whereby each sister came to be what she now is; Lucy, the one that got away, fleeing the farm secretly and without warning, never to see the old man again, and Cadi, who promptly gave up her job as a teacher in Manchester to take Lucy's place in her father's lonely, narrow world, beginning a pattern of guilt, self-submission, self-reliance, and occluded rage that would last until his death.

    
A haunting, elegiac evocation of hill-farm life, from its very first line A Kingdom is preoccupied with the connotations surrounding the word rooted and with what it means, for good and ill, to be tied to such a place.

 

 

James Hanley was born into a Liverpool-Irish family in 1897. He served at sea (and briefly in the Canadian army) during the First World  War, worked at various jobs, educated himself, and began publishing fiction in the 1930s most notoriously Boy (1931), an unsparing  account of sexual abuse on board merchant ships, which became the subject of an obscenity trial. He produced a dauntingly large output some 20 novels, plays, volumes of stories, and radio dramas, and was held in the highest regard by other novelists, including  E. M. Forster, V. S. Pritchett, and Doris Lessing; his reputation was for uncompromisingly realistic accounts of working-class life (The  Furys, 1935), of situations of extreme privation (The Ocean, 1941), and for compellingly intense, Camus-like portrayals of alienation and  disengagement (Levine, 1956). A Kingdom was his last completed work, and he died in London in 1985.