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The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett
The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett. Centenary Edition.
With a critical introduction by John Shapcott, Keele University. Past Chairman of The Arnold Bennett Society.
Publication of The Old Wives' Tale in 1908 catapulted Arnold Bennett into the front rank of great European novelists. It also established his lasting reputation in America. As a result Bennett's Five towns became as famous a literary locality as Thomas Hardy's Wessex.
The novel paints a colourful picture of Victorian and Edwardian life in a provincial Staffordshire town, Bursley. Constance Baines watches and laments the changes that see her hometown lose its identity in the face of economic changes. her younger sister, Sophia, elopes to Paris in 1870. Although the tow sisters lead widely divergent lifes they cannot escape the limitations of their shared background, nor deny the universal truths of ageing. Yet, despite its sombre reflections, Bennett's novel displays an enchanting sense of fun and endearing understandings of human frailties.
Trade and political revolution, berserk elephants and pampered dogs, murder and punishment, marriage and betrayal - all are part of the panoramic sweep of Bennett's masterpiece.
Cover picture: The Sisters by Ralph Peacock.
Published by Churnet Valley Books.