Monday 25 January 2021

Advent by Jane Fraser @jfraserauthor BLOG TOUR @honno @RandomTTours #Advent #BookExtract


Winter, 1904, and feisty twenty-one-year old Ellen has been summoned back from her new life in Hoboken, New Jersey, to the family farm on windswept Gower, in a last bid to prevent the impending death of her alcoholic father. 

On her return, she finds the family in disarray.  Ailing William is gambling away large swathes of Thomas land; frustrated Eleanor is mourning the husband she once knew; and Ellen’s younger twin brothers face difficult choices.

Ellen, tasked with putting her family’s lives in order, finds herself battling one impossible decision after another.  Resourceful, passionate, and forthright, can she remain in Gower, where being female still brings with it so many limitations?  Can she endure being so close to her lost love?  Will she choose home and duty, or excitement and opportunity across the Atlantic?

Advent by Jane Fraser was published by Honno Welsh Women's Press on 21 January 2021.

As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today.

Extract from Advent by Jane Fraser

As the train approaches Gowerton North, Ellen reaches for the Gladstone bag she’s placed in the overhead luggage net at Liverpool. A gentleman rises from the bench seat opposite and offers to help. 
“I can manage, thanks,” she says, and then lets out a sigh almost as heavy as the baggage she’s carted unaided all the way across the Atlantic. And to think she thought she was travelling light. 
She slides open the glass door of the compartment and stands outside in the narrow corridor to look out as the station gets ever nearer, attempting to free the window of condensation with the arm of her coat. Even though it’s December, the green shocks: trees, hedges, fields, everything so clean looking and newly washed. She’s forgotten how many shades of green there are in Gower. And then remembers the rain. 

She’s increasingly impatient and taps her sturdy lace-up shoes on the floor. She’ll save time standing in the corridor, bag at her side, ready to alight. Doesn’t want to waste any more. Been long enough already. Doesn’t want to keep the boys waiting either. God knows how long they’ll have been at the station, what with the stops and starts she’s had to put up with all day, winding her way through the heart of Wales. 

She removes the glove from her left hand and stretches out her hand through the small gap in the sliding window that has been left open for ventilation. Feels the moving air. Tests the temperature. It’s not cold; more dank and dismal. Yet, despite the mild weather, she’s cold: exhaustion, probably. And the smoke that is seeping in is getting to the back of her throat. It’s made her filthy. She blows her nose into her handkerchief with gusto – loud and functional – then studies the black smut on the white cotton. Disgusting, yet at the same time, compelling. 

She lets herself be lulled by the rhythm of the train, the monotonous chug of the engine, the pattern of the wheels on the tracks. And then the shift from fast to slower and slow as the end of the line approaches. 
She knows she doesn’t look her best: her face is puffy with the gruelling journey, her complexion, sallow, even wan. She can feel the colour draining out of her. In this mess, she’s going to appear older than her twenty-one years. And her hair needs a wash. Even though it’s pinned in a tight bun and tucked under her black hat, she can feel her scalp itching. Not at all how she wants to look for a homecoming. She’d wanted to show them. Yes, that’s the word: show them. Show them how she’s changed in two years, show them the woman she’s become, the woman who manages alone in a city that everybody goes to, quite unlike this place that everybody comes from. 

Everything feels tight and she knows it’s not just down to the stays that are digging into her ribcage and abdomen. She’ll be glad to finally get home and get them off, kick off her shoes and stockings, change her drawers, shake her hair loose. She wonders whether it will still feel like home when she gets there or whether home is somewhere else these days. No doubt her gut will give her the answer. Or time. She also wonders if on a Thursday there’ll be any chance of a bath; any hot water in the copper. It’s going to be no holiday. But she had to come. 
She recognised in an instant her brother George’s fine hand on the envelope: the carefully formed letters, the even, forward slope, the fine loops and swirls. Not a blot of ink anywhere. Miss. Ellen Thomas. 167, River Avenue, Hoboken, NJ, America. And when she stood in the scullery where she was cooking lunch for Mrs. Randall, and took the knife and sliced through the edge of the envelope, the contents had ripped at her insides: 
He can’t last much longer. You know how he is – and there’s nothing we can do here to stop him. Perhaps you can talk some sense into him, sis... 

All that seems so long ago now, even though it is just short of a month since Mrs. Randall said that she simply must return to Wales for one last Christmas with her ailing father. She’d want her children to do the same for her if they had to. She’d kindly given her the money for the return trip, even if it was the stench of steerage that would have to be endured again. 

Your job will be here when you come back, Ellen. If indeed you do come back, she’d said. 

So now she’s chugging into the little wooden station in this little country from which she set off with just ten pounds in her purse, her Gladstone bag and a forwarding address courtesy of her sponsor, Edward Dix, who had left Llanrhidian earlier. Her baby brothers – twins George and Jack – had seen her off, waved her goodbye. They’d been just fifteen then. Double trouble. And now they’re coming to pick her up again. 

She feels the damp chill of coming winter about her, seeping into the peep of ankle between her long dark coat and laced shoes. Two years can feel like a long time, yet like no time at all. 

Jane Fraser lives, work and writes in the Gower peninsula.  
Her debut collection of short fiction The South Westerlies was published by Salt, in June, 2019. She has been widely published in anthologies and reviews including New Welsh Review, The Lonely Crowd, Fish Publishing, TSS and The London Magazine.  
In 2017 she was a finalist in the Manchester Fiction Prize and in 2018 was a prize winner in the Fish Memoir Prize.  
She was selected as one of Hay Writers at Work, a prestigious creative development award for emerging writers, in both 2018 and 2019.

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