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Ceredigion's Tess of the d'Urbervilles

The second part of a Welsh historical series, seen as Ceredigion’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, is published this week. Described as “lyrical, visceral and angry” Nanteos: The Dipping Pool is a gothic novel set against the dramatic backdrop of 1750s Cardiganshire.


Written by critically acclaimed novelist and poet Jane Blank, the book is both prequel and sequel to the 2015 bestseller The Shadow of Nanteos. Both novels are based on the Powell family of Nanteos mansion, located some 3 miles inland from Aberystwyth, with The Dipping Pool concentrating more on the workers and local people – the lead miners, tenant farmers, conjurors, fullers, midwives and gypsies.


“When I finished The Shadow of Nanteos I missed that world and the characters in it. Plas Nanteos is so much more than a gentry house. Estates like this one, which, in its heyday encompassed over 30,000 acres, were more mini ‘kingdoms’. Whole villages were owned and controlled by one family. I wanted not only to explore the lives of these squires, but also to move amongst the people who worked for them; people like my own ancestors on my mother’s side. On returning to the world of Nanteos, I enjoyed seeing the characters again – but many of them, for example Cai, I found had changed!”


Nanteos: The Dipping Pool starts five months prior to the Rev William Powell and his wife Elizabeth inheriting the mansion and explores the estate’s ‘back story’. For the next fourteen months, the narrative runs along the same time frame as the first novel, while characters on the fringes of the earlier book become the new main protagonists. Blank says, “The Shadow of Nanteos ended abruptly, so the sequel resolves this story, moving forwards to finish about five months after the original book ended. Whereas The Shadow of Nanteos has a relatively small cast of important characters and a tight, claustrophobic focus on the house and family, The Dipping Pool ranges wide across the vast Nanteos estate.”


Evoking a strong sense of place throughout and with real locations that readers can explore, this book is certain to appeal to anyone interested in gripping historical fiction and the rule of the gentry in rural Wales. Fusing privilege with tradition and superstition, the violent, secretive world of eighteenth-century Ceredigion is brought to brutal life.