Riceyman Steps by Arnold Bennett
The Riceyman Steps by Arnold Bennett.
Edited by John Shapcott, Chairman of the Arnold Bennett Society.
Arnold Bennett's 1923 prize-winning novel Riceyman Steps is one of the great modernist masterpieces of the 20th century.
The seemingly simple story is abut a second-hand bookseller and miser, Henry Earlforward, who courts and marries the sprightly widow Violet Arb. Their devoted servant, Elsie, is finding it difficult to cope with her shell-shocked lover, Joe. This quartet plays out 'an astounding story of love and death' in the setting of a historically detailed evocation of Clerkenwell.
Behind this bare outline is an engrossing tale of sexual manipulation, the warping of desire by the love of money, the pent-up frustration and violence f a world recovering from the Great War, and the possibility of redemption through love.
Reviewing the novel, J.B. Priestley wrote that Bennett's scenes of passion and death 'are the finest thing in modern fiction'.
Cover picture: Sally Richardson based on Janet Blight's drawing. Illustrations by Janet Blight.
Published by Churnet Valley Books.