The Old Wives' Tale
With a New Introduction by Francine Prose
Commentary by Rebecca West, W. Somerset Maugham,
Virginia Woolf, H. G. Wells, Henry James, and J. B. Priestley
"[Arnold Bennett's] superb Old Wives' Tale, wandering from person to person and from scene to scene, is by far the finest 'long novel' that has been written in English and in the English fashion, in this generation."
�H. G. We...more
Bennett grabbed me with the second sentence of his preface and never let go for a moment. In many ways this 5 page preface is more compelling than the actual novel. Here he relates an anecdote of sitting in a favorite cafe when an old woman comes in talking to herself and dropping her parcels. She is the subject of immediate ridicule by the two waitresses, one old enough...more
And talented Cyril, the child of one sis : so cute, so spoiled. At 33, his "habits were industrious as ever. He seldom spoke of his plans and never of h...more
The Old Wives' Tale (1908) celebrates the romance of even the most ordinary lives as it tells the story of the two Baines sisters, placid stay-at-home Constance and rebellious Sophia, from their girlhood to their last days. They move from the family drapery shop in provincial Bursley during the repressive mid-Victorian period to old age in the modern era of mass marketing and the internal combustion engine. The setting ranges from the Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Bursley to a Paris brothel, the
I'm always going to be a little bit bored and a little bit annoyed by the social constraints of the 1800s because they are...more
I have a pile of books “to be read” that comprise my “guilt” pile. They are usually from the group known as classics, and have small print, and are exceedingly long. I put off reading any of them until my guilt level exceeds my capability of enduring it. That’s how I picked up this novel by Bennett. I’ve known for years that this was considered his best work, and had even broken myself into his style by reading one of shorter works first, now I’...more
A momentary self-congrats: with this novel, I finished the Modern Library top 100.
Only took me about 5 years, but I did it.
This novel was a worthy finale being quite a tome, 620 pages, and since written
in the early 1900s, was worried it might be difficult.
However it was a pleasant read, the story of the Baines family, primarily
Constance and Sophia from their teens through old age and death. Starting
around 1860, you get a look at the working class districts of England,
a view of middle class life...more
Set in Burslem and Paris beginning near the mid 1800′s through the turn of the century, we meet the appropriately named Baines sisters; sophisticated Sophia and constant Consta...more
The characterisation, on the other hand, remains a collection of clever sketches that are incapable of arousing an emotional response. In this the flaw of the novel is exposed: being clever rather than moving.
Although the very ordinariness and inherent conservatism of the main characters is crucial to t...more
At one level, this is simply the story of two ordinary lives. Told in wonderful detail that brings the characters and settings and history to life.
At another level, this is timeless philosophical obsersvation about youth, aging, cycles of life and death, growth and decline of people, culture, tradition and communities.
There are some parts of this book that are unparalleled works of art.
For example the description of baby Cyril playing on a...more
Her return was accepted with indifference. Her escapade of thirty years ago entirely lost its dramatic quality. Many people indeed never heard that she had run away from...more
Sophia is the only one in the family that actually lived. She left the tiny town of Bursley for, in my opinion, stupid reasons, but she left. And she lived a life worthy of talking about. Constance, the elder sister, sat around, got fat and comp...more
Why would you want to read this book, you ask? Well, it is told in four parts and over the expanse of 50+ years, we really get to know the trials/tribulations of these sisters and their mother. The writing style is easy to read and the story just flows along and before you know it, you have reached the end of the book and you are sat...more