Novelist, essayist, poet and writer of short stories, Margiad Evans (1909-1958) was one of the most remarkable women writers of the mid-twentieth century. Having published three novels, two autobiographical works and two volumes of poetry during her life, her relatively slim output belies considerable achievement in the face of intermittent poverty and the illness of her later years. (Aged forty-one, she was diagnosed epileptic, falling pregnant the same year; she died of a brain tumour in 1958.)
Evans’s fiction has been compared to that of the Bronte sisters, her poetry to W.H. Davies and de la Mare. Her writing ranges from the balanced symmetries of her debut novel Country Dance, to Creed with its ’postmodern’ authorial interventions and anticipation of structuralism, through the meditations on creativity and divinity contained in the Autobiography, to the coming-to-terms with mortality that is A Ray of Darkness. Unifying this complex oeuvre, however, is a concentration on certain key themes which resonate strongly today.
Foremost is Evans’s ground-breaking depictions of love, sex, illness and death in the lives and work of women inhabiting harsh and restrictive rural environments. Her beloved south Herefordshire borderland was inspirational in itself. And, as her health deteriorated, so death, and its unquiet acceptance, became central. In this, the fullest study to date, Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan draws on Margiad Evans’s extensive personal and literary archives to offer valuable, sympathetic, well-balanced criticism of an important and highly individual woman writer whose work retains its force, identity and freshness.
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