From the birth of Oliver Hamer in 1941 to the imminent birth of his first grandchild in 2011, Tom Bullough’s powerful new novel traces seventy years of rural life through the story of a farming family in Radnorshire. Keeping the land intact and in the family is a driving force, and as an only son Oliver is forced by the pious and puritanical Idris to sacrifice his dreams of study and devote himself to the farm. A larger than life figure, Oliver becomes an obsessive worker, drinker, womaniser and fighter, as stubborn as Idris but, thanks to his quietly authoritative mother Etty, becomes more open to the dramatic, transformative changes they must face.
From horse-drawn ploughing to mobile phones, Addlands reveals how the new demands of the modern world affect individuals, the community and even language. Paralleled by the decline of the austere chapel culture, traditional industries give way to newer, imported technologies, while Idris’s rich vocabulary, matching the physical strength and complex skills formerly required, is gradually replaced by less localised forms of speech, while place-names provide a constant reminder of the loss of a more distant, Welsh-speaking past. Continuity and the coexistence of old and new underpin a strong narrative, as rooted in the land and seasons as the Hamer family itself.
‘Marrow-deep in its connection to place yet global in its thematic exploration and significance, Addlands does what literature should unstintingly aspire to do: make individual lives the essential stuff of epic. In crystalline, perfect, and stunning prose, Tom Bullough sites, convincingly and movingly, the entire history of these islands in a small section of Radnorshire. The presence of this book – in shops, in libraries, in homes, in the minds of its readers – will improve the broken, atomised world. It’s an astonishing work of words.’
‘A quiet hymn to place, an exploration of the way in which our relationship to it makes us who we are.’