A new novel by Welsh author Sam Adams was inspired by a family Bible. The novel called In the Vale , published by Y Lolfa, is a family saga that takes the reader from London to the Vale of Glamorgan and outwards into the social ferment and bloody turmoil of the Napoleonic era. It was inspired by the Williams family, who lived in the Vale of Glamorgan. George Williams, Rector of Llantrithyd was the Bible’s original owner, and used it to record the births and deaths of his and his wife Sarah’s children. Sam Adams received the Bible, which has been passed down from father to son since his great-great-great grandfather’s time, from a cousin.
Author Sam Adams said:
“To be in possession of only half a story is frustrating – you want to know the whole thing!
George was an impoverished curate when he married, and was gifted the rectory, the land and income that went with it as a result of the marriage, which (very oddly) was announced in the Gentleman's Magazine in London. There the bride’s address was listed as 'Ash Hall, Ystradowen', the home of Richard Aubrey, youngest son of Sir Thomas Aubrey of Llantrithyd Place.
How did this union come about? Why isn't the name of their first child, George, recorded in the Family Bible? These were among the earliest puzzles that tormented me.”
This led to much research in libraries and on-line searches for any information linked with George Williams and his family. Successes included the discovery in a library at Saint Fagans of a diary kept by John Perkins, a gentleman farmer of Llantrithyd – and a friend of the Reverend George Williams.
“The story of the Williams family was unfolding during one of the most turbulent periods in European history – the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The strife and suffering caused by conflict affected everyone, at home and overseas: military action, disease, a bad economy. These were the realties of the time. While in a familial context, George and Sarah’s first son, also named George, died in infancy due to being vaccinated against smallpox,” says Sam Adams.
“I have tried to recapture, through choice of vocabulary and cadence of expression in dialogue, narrative and description, the tone of the period, while seeking to fill imaginatively the many gaps in a story of real people against a background of bloody turmoil.”
Sam Adams has been involved in Welsh writing in English since the late 1960s. He is a former editor of Poetry Wales and former chairman of the English-language section of Yr Academi Gymreig. His scholarly writing includes editions of the Collected Poems and Collected Short Stories of Roland Mathias, and three monographs in the Writers of Wales series, the latest on Thomas Jeffery Llewelyn Prichard , who is also the subject of several articles published in the Journal of Welsh Writing in English . He has contributed poems and well over a hundred ‘Letters from Wales’ to the Carcanet Press magazine PN Review . His work from Y Lolfa includes, in addition to Prichard’s Nose , a collection of poetry and Where the Stream Ran Red , a delightful and moving history of his family and of Gilfach Goch, the mining valley where he was born and brought up.
In the Vale by Sam Adams (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.