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Precious Bane

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  1,810 Ratings  ·  386 Reviews
Books like PRECIOUS BANE are as rare as blue moons. A forgotten classic set in rural Shropshire at the turn of the 19th century blends a simple, rustic love story with a profound sense of nature's mystic truth.

Prue Sarn is an original and appealing heroine of English literature as she triumphs over a physical handicap to win her heart's desire. Skillfully woven through thi

Hardcover, 356 pages
Published 1938 by Modern Library, a division of Random House (first published 1924)
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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
Mar 06, 2009 Rachel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Mar 25, 2013 Dolors rated it really liked it  ·  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
Hilary Woolf
Apr 25, 2016 Hilary Woolf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in the 1800's this tale of rural life shows what a hard,hard life ordinary people endured. It could have been set in medieval times, for the superstition, religious brutality and the treatment of women, children, and animals are awful.

After Gideon and Prue's father dies Gideon is determined to better their lives, and at first his character seems quite admirable, hard working and driven to look after his mother and sister and not heeding of superstitious nonsense. However as Prue observes mo
Nov 05, 2012 Kristen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 09, 2009 Melanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2008 Cissy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 29, 2009 Stacy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mrs. Meers
Sep 02, 2008 Mrs. Meers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 07, 2009 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Dawn Marie
Jul 13, 2012 Dawn Marie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 06, 2011 Saysha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-group
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, 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
Alun Williams
Aug 02, 2011 Alun Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 02, 2013 Sylvester rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, nature, 2013
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
Jan 21, 2010 Jenifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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'
Jun 03, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
Mary Webb could give many writers lessons today. Like the Weaver, she brings together coloured threads, light and dark, and weaves a rich and textured pattern. Her prose, written in dialect, throws the events into high relief as well as providing a lush background in the description of the countryside she loves so much, the plant and animal life as well as the workings of Nature. Webb tells a tragic tale of "the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life" which comprise the ...more
Brenda Clough
Dec 13, 2011 Brenda Clough rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 (
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
Jul 28, 2014 K. rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Nov 20, 2013 Kristen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On the one hand I wonder why this book isn't on my sons high school AP English book list, and on the other hand I wouldn't want to be the teacher who would have to put up with the groans and complaints about village dialect.

The Bane represents the thing in a persons life that is toxic to their happiness. For the protagonist, Pru Sarn, it is the hare lip she was born with. Her bane is her outward appearance; but, because of her bane, she learned to love life and she holds nature and purity dear a
Jim Leckband
Jul 30, 2013 Jim Leckband rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When you read most history books, you get a lot of trees and not much forest. You read that Napoleon conquered but you don't really understand or feel what the people felt as they were living in those times. Understanding Napoleon is important, but I think it is just as important to know how people made their lives in times and places that are so different than ours.

"Precious Bane" takes place in a galaxy far far away. A very isolated English rural village, Sarn, circa 1810. The heroine, Prudenc
Mar 14, 2008 Kurt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Barb Terpstra
Jun 18, 2015 Barb Terpstra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I discovered this book through a newsfeed of some sort, investigated it in Amazon and Goodreads (over 4 stars for both), and decided to give it a try.

Precious Bane was first published in 1924. The setting is Shropshire, England after the Napaleonic wars. I tell you this because I struggled with understanding some of the conversations at first, as the language used was representative of the time and people. Once I got to know Prue Sarn though, I was pulled into the story. There was a lot of descr
Dana Loo
Apr 20, 2016 Dana Loo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un romanzo di grande potenza evocatica. Se nn fosse ambientato nell'antico Shropshire ai tempi delle Guerre napoleoniche, dove l'autrice visse e assorbi racconti, leggende e superstizioni raccontatele da residenti e parenti, potrebbe essere definito tranquillamente una sorta di tragedia greca, incastonata in descrizioni di una liricità commovente.
La natura è talmente presente e viva tra le vicende, via via più drammatiche della famiglia Sarn che spesso, paradossalmente, rischia di soverchiarne l
Jan 14, 2010 Carol2 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
I have come to realize that I am drawn to English literature. I loved this book! The English prose was beautifully descriptive as it wove a tale of human nature and love. The story took a different turn than I had expected, yet ended with the happily-ever-after I had hoped for.
Jun 20, 2008 Shelly rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Nov 19, 2013 Dorcas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this too long ago to give a detailed synopsis or content check. I remember I enjoyed it but I also remember it is at least a PG rating. I should read it again...
Sep 12, 2012 Sarah marked it as unfinished  ·  review of another edition
I like Prue. I even kinda got used to the country dialect.

But the rest of it just wasn't believable enough for me.
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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 about Mary Webb...

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“Labor brings a thing nearer the hearts core.” 4 likes
“He was ever a strong man, which is almost the same, times, as to say a man with little time for kindness. For if you stop to be kind, you must swerve often from your pat. So when folk tell me of this great man and that great man, I think to myself, Who was stinted of joy for his glory? How many old folk and children did his coach wheels go over? What bridal lacked his song, and what mourner his tars, that he found time to climb so high?” 3 likes
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