Precious Bane
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Precious Bane

4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  1,258 ratings  ·  314 reviews
Mary Webb (March 25, 1881 - October 8, 1927), was an English romantic novelist of the early 20th century, whose Hardyesque novels are set chiefly in the Shropshire countryside and among Shropshire characters and people which she knew;
Paperback, 196 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Echo Library (first published 1924)
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Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Imagine the English language as a man who had passed through life's many stages, from infancy to adulthood. This novel may then be considered to have been written in English when the language was still a young boy of thirteen. Adding a lot to its quaint charm is the novel's simple, rustic setting, as if saying that when the language was young, so was the world then.


There's a love story here, and tragedy, and family. When she was a young girl the narrator expressed wonderment that her mother kept...more
Corinne
This book was an absolute pleasure to read, from start to finish. The depth and character development were stunning and you get such a glimpse at human nature - at it's best and worst. It's almost a spiritual journey - after reading you find yourself savoring different passages to find all the truth you know is within them. Precious Bane is AMAZING. I don't know what exactly it was about it struck me as exquisitely beautiful, but it touched me and I finished it feeling like a better person. Prue...more
Rachel
This is my number one favorite novel of all time. I can't really define the reason I love it so much. Sure, there's the lyrical writing, the sweet-yet-spunky protagonist, the gorgeous setting, and the best love story of all time. But there's something beyond all that which touches my soul. I always know I'll be life-long friends with anyone else who has ever read and loved this book.
Dolors
Mar 25, 2013 Dolors rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: anyone who appreciates good classics and a hearty message
Shelves: read-in-2013
Being the devoted reader of British classics I am, how I've managed to miss this little gem of a book for so long I honestly don't know. But beware, my dear reader, this is not Jane Austen. This is a harsh tale, in the style of Thomas Hardy or even George Eliot, you'll see the characters you so much come to care for struggle in an unfair and prejudiced world, and you'll suffer along with them.

Prudence Sarn is a country girl who lives with her simple mother and her older brother, Gideon, "Maister...more
Stacy
This is a book that is so amazing that if you don't like it, I really don't want to hear about it. I only give it those of the race who know Joseph. Written in an old English venacular it tells a beautiful story of redemption and love. If you love literature this is a gem. My ultimate favorite for the last few years.
Melanie
A book unlike any I've read before, but it was one of the most pure and beautiful stories I've ever read. Precious Bane is not a quick read, the language in particular made the reading a bit slower (it is written in Old English and dripping with 19th century superstitions), but it could not have been told any other way. Prue Sarn, the tragically cursed narrator speaks from her heart, and she is what endeared me forever to this book. The sentiment of a 'precious bane' carries through both Prue's...more
Alun Williams
This book has been one of my favourites for about 25 years, ever since I bought it almost at random, and then read it on a long train journey through France. It is one of the very few books I reread regularly, and my pleasure in it never lessens.

I won't repeat what the other reviewers to give this book 5 stars have said, which I think gives a good idea of how much most readers will feel about this book, but just tell you that a few months ago I, somewhat diffidently, recommended it to a book gro...more
Kristen
I give this book six stars. I wanted to begin it again the second I finished it. I would never have heard of this book were it not for Goodreads. Thanks Goodreads friends!! This is truly a miracle of a book.

Set in Shropshire, England, after the Napoleonic Wars. Narrated by Prue Sarn, a young woman with a cleft lip, or hare-shotten lip, as it is called in the book.

The book is beautiful in three ways. The writing--the Shropshire dialect---is so wonderful that I whispered almost the entire book a...more
Jenifer
This book had never come across my radar before we chose it as a Book Club selection. Thanks be to the Book Club! We had a great discussion and once again, I am just thankful for those ladies who brighten up my every third Wednesday by sharing our joy of reading and bringing into my life books that I would never have known.

I read some of the Goodreads reviews, and it turns out that everyone of the disposition to read a book like this - exploring human nature, bringing the reader into the story'...more
Cissy
This novel is unlike any I've ever read, but its beauty and strength drew me in. You can read summaries in myriad other places, so I will just say that the story, told in first-person, is sweet, wise, tragic, and real. I give five stars only to books I would 1. buy, and 2. re-read. I had not even finished my borrowed copy before I ordered my own and have already started skimming it again. I cannot recommend this to everyone, because it is definitely unusual; however, I think it is a worthwhile,...more
Emily
This was a somewhat enjoyable story with good character development. The main character was pure, strong, and loving...a truly likeable heroine. The love story in it was real with a dash of fairytale...I really enjoyed that part of the book. Unfortunately, it was a minor part and Webb didn't devote enough time to their relationship as I would have liked. Although the characters were richly developed, I didn't really care for any of them except Prue and Kester, and because the majority of the sto...more
Sylvester
Had to order this from a distant library - which is sad, to think of this book being neglected. I know I mocked "Gone to Earth", and with good reason, but there was something about it nonetheless that made me think I'd like to check PB out. I wasn't disappointed. I knew it would be melodramatic, but this is Webb's way, you either like it or you leave it alone.

Reasons I liked Precious Bane:

1. Interesting dialect. Made me feel as if I'd been dropped directly into another time (dialect is iffy busi...more
Dawn Marie
When I was 16, PBS blew my mind. I was sitting up watching Masterpiece Theater on the local affiliate station, and right in the middle of this period drama they showed a man’s naked ass. PBS was, and apparently had always been, astonishingly cool. Later, my PBS affiliate aired a highly controversial documentary about gay men called Tongues Untied despite great hue and cry (and to this day, my brain insists that it was actually entitled “Tongues United”, which kind of makes its own sense), but un...more
Kurt
Annoyingly, GoodReads makes it hard to zero in on just the edition I actually read. (OK, so it's the TEXT that we're interested in ... go to LibraryThing if you want to focus on specific editions!)

Anyway, this is a marvelous, marvelous novel. Set in Britain of the early 1800s (I think), it has wonderful characters, stunning descriptive passages, strong conflict, struggle, triumph, surprises, and dialect to knock your socks off. And it's the ONLY book I've ever read that refers to a veterinarian...more
Saysha
While the dialect can be a challenge and the plot a bit slow, I was very impressed. It sounds like Thomas Hardy but is written by a woman, which makes me frustrated that it isn't as renowned as Hardy's work. There are passages that are so beautiful I had to read them out loud. Read Webb's biography on marywebb.org, too; her own life is fascinating. I also love that Stella Gibbons was parodying Webb (among others) in Cold Comfort. I understand why, but that doesn't diminish my feelings for Webb's...more
Mrs. Meers
One of my very favorite works. Mary Webb creates a fascinating, jealously enclosed environment whose landscape, characters and situations are almost otherworldly in their strangeness and intensity. Told through the eyes of Prue Sarn, a young woman born with the "curse" of a hare lip, emotions range from deification to humiliation, complete submission to complete selfish possession, passion to apathy, lust to absolutely pure love. I only recommend this book to people I "trust" to appreciate it.
Carol2
This is my favorite book of all time. It gives me hope and inspiration. I appreciate the emphasis on inner beauty and how the heroine is ultimately rewarded for her humble, behind-the-scenes acts of kindness and selflessness. I have read it multiple times and highly recommend it. I first heard about it because of the "Masterpiece Theatre" program, which is also good.
Shelly
Jun 20, 2008 Shelly rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shelly by: TG
Shelves: fiction-novel
Wonderful, wonderful!

From Erika Duncan's opening paragraph in the introduction to Mary Webb's final concluding sentence a satisfying, heartfelt, lovely read.
Karen
Honest emotion beautifully expressed. It took a while getting into the book because of the dialect, but after I did I loved it. One of the best books I've read.
Mark
Quite seriously, probably the best book I have ever read! After reading an excerpt from a book by Elizabeth Goodge, in "The Light of Love", a 'prayer book' by Barbara Cartland, (not a prayer book in the conventional sense; we ARE talking Barbara Cartland here, who I don't think even KNEW the meaning of conventional!) I was so impressed by the one paragraph quoted, that I immediately bought the Elizabeth Goodge book. I expected the book to be wonderful and lyrical, just like that one paragraph, b...more
Louise Leetch
“Like a maid standing at the meeting of the lane-ends on May Day with a posy-knot as a favour for a rider that should come by. And Behold! The horseman rode straight over me, and left me, posy and all, in the mire. “

Thus Prue Sarn describes herself, “cursed” because she was born with a hare-lip. Prue’s brother, Gideon, drives himself and her relentlessly to build their farm to a great success so they might leave and live in a grand house in the town. Prue matches him furrow for furrow and spade...more
Brenda Clough
This is one of my favorite types of fiction: the kind that you can fall into, like stepping into a manhole. Bam! One step and you are in a totally different world. The insular life of rural Britain comes to vivid life in this highly romantic old novel, which brought posthumous fame and fortune to its unlucky author (http://marywebb.org/synopses/precious...).
I particularly admire the use of reading and the spiritual life as an escape for the heroine, Prue, from a really harsh and unpleasant exis...more
Hannah
This is a tough book to review, because I enjoyed it very much, but also struggled through it at the same time. It's one of those books that I wouldn't recommend to anyone, but at the same time I feel as though more people should read this book.

It's considered a minor classic, and I can see why that is so. Books like Precious Bane are the kind that seem awfully simple, yet have some deep philosophical impact - sometimes too deep for me to appreciate. But nonetheless I loved the story of hare-lip...more
K.
Sep 23, 2013 K. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Emily N. , Kati K., Rachel Y.
Writing of the edition illustrated by Rowland Hilder (really cool woodcuts), with a "new" introduction by Erika Duncan & old introduction by The Rt. Hon. Stanley Baldwin (for reals).

The intro by Duncan nearly put me off reading this book, it was so, oh, no other perfect word fits but weird. And, the mention that C.S. Lewis appreciated it gave me mixed feelings (he was so very much so much above me in most of his literary tastes and some of the books he loved have been incomprehensible to me...more
Helen Kitson
My interest in Mary Webb is partly because she's a Virago Modern Classics author, but also because she's a Shropshire lass. It was a little hard to get past the thought that Mary Webb's books were a big inspiration for Stella Gibbons' wonderfully funny Cold Comfort Farm, but this novel is no sillier than anything by Thomas Hardy. Webb, like Hardy, writes about country folk, their daily lives and their superstitions. Although she uses Shropshire dialect, the story and characters are far less melo...more
Angie
I came away from this book feeling quite stunned by the way the story unraveled. I had approached it without too much awareness of the plot, only a knowledge of its name and its supposed worthiness in terms of English literature. I was not disappointed.

Set during the Napoleonic Wars, the plot centres on the agricultural sharehold of the Sarn family in the Shropshire countryside. The siblings Prue and her brother Gideon (who ends up being the breadwinner after accidentally killing his father in...more
Julia Hughes
Mary Webb uses words to paint her native Shropshire countryside in glorious technicolour. This is quite simply a beautiful yet at times hauntingly melancholic story of a young girl growing up in rural poverty in the early 18th century, where 'sin eaters' are still employed at funerals. The heroine has a harelip. Her 'deformity' is attributed to a hare running across her mother's path when she was pregnant. Although not an outcast, her facial disfigurement does set Prue apart from her peers, yet...more
B. Morrison
I loved this book. It took me forever to read because every time I picked it up, I went back and reread the previous chapters for the pure joy of the prose.

In Precious Bane Prue Sarn tells the story of what happened after the death of her father of apoplexy or stroke following an argument with her brother Gideon. Gideon takes over running the farm, determined to force it to yield the wealth that he believes he requires in order to marry the woman his loves and lead the life he is determined to l...more
Michael
Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm (made into a wonderful film with a very young Kate Beckinsale) is a parody of a genre that no longer really exists, a sort of Rural English Gothic. When I learned this--I forgot how I did--I set out to find some examples, figuring I'd read a few pages and have a good laugh. Sure enough, when I pulled Precious Bane off a library shelf I did have a bit of a chuckle at the elaborate yokelism, and at how accurately Gibbons had captured it in CCF. Then I read the ne...more
Emily
Tamara Oswald, my amazing harp teacher loaned this book to me... she'd lived in London for a few years and taken and English literature class, and said this was her favorite of the books they read. So it came with very high praise which was great, because it really is an unusual book, and like a lot of these older books it takes a little bit of patience to appreciate.

Precious Bane tells a story that seems both ethereal and earthy with beautiful poetic writing and a narrative that reads slowly li...more
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Mary Webb (1881-1927) was an English romantic novelist of the early 20th century, whose novels were set chiefly in the Shropshire countryside and among Shropshire characters and people which she knew and loved well. Although she was acclaimed by John Buchan and by Rebecca West, who hailed her as a genius, and won the Prix Femina of La Vie Heureuse for Precious Bane (1924), she won little respect f...more
More about Mary Webb...
Gone to Earth Seven for a Secret The Golden Arrow The House in Dormer Forest (Virago Modern Classics) Armour Wherein He Trusted

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