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Kate Roberts

Feet in Chains

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Kate Roberts; Trans. Katie Gramich.


Snowdonia, 1880, and Jane Gruffydd is a newcomer to the district, dressed to the nines and almost fainting in the heat of the interminable prayer meeting out on the mountainside...

In the pages of this classic 1936 novel, we see the passionate and headstrong Jane grow up and grow old, struggling to bring up a family of six children on the pittance earned by her slate-quarrying husband, Ifan. Spanning the next forty years, the novel traces the contours not only of one vividly evoked Welsh family but of a nation coming to self-consciousness; it begins in the heyday of Methodist fervour and ends in the carnage and disillusionment of the First World War. Through it all, Jane survives, the centre of her world and the inspiration for her children who will grow up determined to change the conditions of these poor people’s lives, to release them forever from their chains. 


‘Direct and brilliantly convincing...A comparison with Russian literature is tempting...The frustration and hopelessness...of Chekhov’s...characters resemble the peasants and quarrymen of Kate Roberts’s narrower world.’ (Storm Jameson) 


Kate Roberts (1891-1985) was the towering figure of Welsh- language fiction in the twentieth century. Feet in Chains is her masterpiece. Katie Gramich's translation does justice to the austere beauty of Roberts’s style and takes the reader into the heart of a different culture, a different world.

Prof. Katie Gramich is a Reader in English Literature at Cardiff University. A specialist in the literature of modern Wales and in rediscovering neglected Welsh women writers, she has served as Chair of the Association for Welsh Writing in English and edits the Almanac series.