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Precious Bane

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  2,519 ratings  ·  485 reviews
A compelling story of passion, with an enduring air of enchantment throughout, Precious Bane is a novel that haunts us with its beauty and its timeless truths about our deepest hopes. Set in Shropshire in the 1800s, it is alive with the many moods of Nature, benevolent and violent and the many moods -- equally benevolent and violent -- of the people making lives there.
Paperback, 328 pages
Published August 31st 1990 by University of Notre Dame Press (first published July 1924)
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Bob Dyson It is a row of tuned flints, believe it or not; they were quite common in rural areas at one time. There is a large example in the town museum of Kesw…moreIt is a row of tuned flints, believe it or not; they were quite common in rural areas at one time. There is a large example in the town museum of Keswick in Cumbria.(less)

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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  2,519 ratings  ·  485 reviews

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Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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,
Corinne Edwards
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 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Mar 17, 2013 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
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by saying this book was not at all what I expected. I thought I was settling into a leisurely little classic in a cozy English village with a pining maiden who quietly shoulders her burdens. What I got instead was an engrossing, gutsy page turner. Prue Sarn has now charmed her way in to being one of my favorite classic heroines ever. Despite being born with a “hare-shotten lip” (harelip), she’s plucky, and wise beyond her years. She has a wry sense of humor and a thirst for “book-la ...more
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
Canadian Reader
Rating: 3.5

It’s a long time since I’ve read Thomas Hardy to whose work, Mary Webb’s Precious Bane is often compared, but the novel only feels Hardyesque insofar as it involves a nineteenth-century agrarian community steeped in superstition and in its abundant lyrical descriptions of nature. Far more than Hardy’s, Webb’s characters seem like figures from some ancient ballad, more types than fully fleshed-out people, and her plot is a simple one.

The story opens sometime in the 1820s with the sudde
Please read the GR book description here:
It is excellent. I will fill in only a bit more, what I think should be emphasized.

The prose is what makes this book special. The prose fits the story to a T. Life in the countryside of 1800s Shropshire, England, is what is drawn. There is a heavy use of dialect. The story is told as it should be told—the dialect, the idioms, and manner of speech all blend together. They create a whole that feels genuine. The atm
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Stacy Jensen
Jan 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
FINISHED (14 March 2019)
Having read Gone to Earth a few years back, I vowed to read everything that I could find by Mary Webb. It has taken me a while but, for my second novel by this author, I finally got to Precious Bane. It is a treasure through and through, filled with so much wisdom and marvellous descriptions of the natural world and of the many quirky characters.

I can't remember where I read it, but Mary Webb has been called a genius. I am beginning to be of the same opinion. The pro
Rachel Sargeant
May 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
My favourite book. I've only read it once and won't return to it because I don't want to ruin the magical memory I have of it. I only picked it up because I'd moved to Shropshire, the home of the late author who was much celebrated locally. It's written in a pretend dialect of nineteenth century country people which takes a bit of getting used to but ultimately works well. I loved the romance between Prue and Kester, two intelligent, compassionate people in a community which doesn't value either ...more
Cynthia Egbert
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own-and-read
I fell in love with dear Prue and will definitely revisit this one someday. This is not a happy read, but I found it profound. Prue is a mystic and one of the most gentle souls I have encountered in literature and I am quite smitten! There are a lot of superstitions and odd beliefs to be found in this book but that is also intriguing to me as some of these traditions came over with my ancestors and I recognized some of our family habits in these practices.

I have to record some of my favorite qu
Dawn Marie
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 03, 2009 rated it liked it
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
rating: 3.5

In the Foreword, the author writes:
The past is only the present become invisible and mute ... We are to-morrow's past. ... And a few paragraphs later: there is a continuity in country life which makes the lapse of centuries seem of little moment.

I haven't read any other books by Webb, so I have nothing with which to compare this one, but it seems to me that Webb identifies strongly with her heroine, Prudence. I'd bet that she bestows on Prue her own outlook on life and perhaps even a
Mrs. Meers
Aug 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Mar 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Alun Williams
Aug 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, classic, nature
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
Brenda Clough
Dec 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of my new favorites among classics. I hadn't heard of this book until my mother read it and recommended it to me. At first I had difficulty with the old language but after awhile it got easier. An inspiring love story, with lush, vivid descriptions of nature, remarkable spiritual insights and compelling characterizations. Highly recommend this one. ...more
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jim Leckband
Jul 26, 2013 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
Jan 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
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'
Mar 14, 2008 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
Jan 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my all time favorite books. Mary Webb was daring enough to write about simple farm folk in the days when readers only wanted to read about the aristocracy. These simple farm folk are, of course, not at all simple. The family story is tragic and glorious.
I've read this book over and over again.
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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

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