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Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett
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's review
Jun 19, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in June, 2012

ANNA OF THE FIVE TOWNS. (1902). Arnold Bennett. ****.
The plot where a daughter is severely under the control of her father and must do as he says seems to a common one in Victorian literature – much like vampire literature is today. This is one of those novels. Its heroine, Anna Tellwright, lives with her father, Ephraim, and her younger sister, Agnes. She has just turned twenty-one, and her father, since he had no choice, has turned over the inheritance to her that she received from her mother. Turns out that it was close to 50,000 pounds. Of course, he will manage it for her, so she is left as before with no money and no options. In talking about Ephraim, the author says: “The women of a household were the natural victims of their master: in his experience it had always been so. In his experience, the master had always, by universal consent, possessed certain rights over the self-respect, the happiness and the peace of the defenseless souls set under him.” Fortunately, Anna meets a young man of thirty-three who falls in love with her and offers to marry her. Although she is not in love with him, it gives her an opportunity to get away from the oppression that exists in her house. Along with this thin plot, however, the author provides an interesting background on the area where Anna lives and grew up. The five towns is an area in England where most of the pottery is made. They include the towns of Turnhill, Bursley, Hanbridge, Knype, and Longshaw. Now, I don’t know if these are real towns or if he just made them up, but there are areas like that in England because of the presence of all the necessary materials: the right kind of clay, coal nearby for the kilns, and the presence of canals which enable the manufacturers to ship goods cheaply. We also get a good peek into the mechanics of pottery manufacture while we watch our characters move about. This is not what I’d say was a terrific book, but it demonstrates the author’s ability to create characters and place them in interesting backgrounds, even though you might be disappointed in the ending. I’d still recommend it.

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