Rape of the Fair Country
First US edition
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Followed by||The Hosts Of Rebecca|
Rape of the Fair Country is a novel by Alexander Cordell, first published in 1959. It is the first in Cordell's "Mortymer Trilogy", followed by The Hosts Of Rebecca (1960) and Song of the Earth (1969). The book has been translated into seventeen languages. In addition to the book having been adapted for numerous plays over the years and more recently.
The plot concerns the Welsh iron-making communities of Blaenavon and Nantyglo in the 19th century. The action is seen through the eyes of young Iestyn Mortymer who grows up in times of growing tensions between ironmasters and Trade Unionists. In 1826, when the book starts, Iestyn is eight years old and already beginning work at the Garndyrus furnaces near Blaenavon. His sister Morfydd has strong feelings about women and children working in mines and ironworks. She sympathises with the Chartist movement and condemns the action of the militant Scotch Cattle. In this she is in opposition to Hywel Mortymer, their conservative father who later begins to question his own loyalty to the ironmaster.
Cordell's first successful novel draws the hardship of life in early industrial Wales with the father starting off as positive towards the English coal and iron masters of the time but then on seeing his family and neighbours suffer (and sometimes die) he revolts with his son, Iestyn to protest. The family life leads to the fight for trade unions and Chartism. The historical background against which the novel is set is described in considerable detail with profoundly researched factual events like the 1839 Newport Rising show this book to be worthy of the bestseller status it achieved in the UK as well as the USA. Cordell told of the story of the Chartist movement starting in Wales accurately and clearly like no other, but with a background of humanity of the Mortymer family.
"I thought of my river, the Afon-Lwydd, that my father had fished in youth, with rod and line for the leaping salmon under the drooping alders. The alders, he said, that fringed the banks ten deep, planted by the wind of the mountains. But no salmon leap in the river now, for it is black with furnace washings and slag, and the great silver fish have been beaten back to the sea or gasped out of their lives on sands of coal. No alders stand now for they have been chopped as fuel for the cold blast. Even the mountains are shells, groaning in their hollows of emptiness, trembling to the arrows of the pit-props in their sides, bellowing down the old workings that collapse in unseen dust five hundred feet below. Plundered is my country, violated, raped."
"The pot that had simmered for fifty years boiled over. Colliers and miners, furnacemen and tram-road labourers were flooding down the valley to the Chartists' rendezvous: men from Dowlais under the Guests, Cyfarthfa under the Crawshays, Nantyglo under Bailey and a thousand forges and bloomeries in the hills: men of the farming Welsh, the Staffordshire specialists and the labouring Irish were taking to arms."