The Old Wives' Tale

The Old Wives' Tale

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The Old Wives' Tale

The Old Wives' Tale

Read FREE!

Synopsis

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. Wells First published in 1908, The Old Wives' Tale affirms the integrity of ordinary lives as it tells the story of the Baines sisters--shy, retiring Constance and defiant, romantic Sophia--over the course of nearly half a century. Bennett traces the sisters' lives from childhood in their father's drapery shop in provincial Bursley, England, during the mid-Victorian era, through their married lives, to the modern industrial age, when they are reunited as old women. The setting moves from the Five Towns of Staffordshire to exotic and cosmopolitan Paris, while the action moves from the subdued domestic routine of the Baines household to the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. "Like Wordsworth, [Arnold Bennett] has triumphed over the habitual; he has not let it disguise the particle of beauty from him."--Rebecca West

ARNOLD BENNETT (1867-1931) looked to Flaubert, Maupassant, and Balzac for inspiration in the fashioning of his own acutely realistic novels, including his masterpiece, The Old Wives' Tale (1908). His first novel was A Man from the North (1898), and he is also known for his Clayhanger trilogy (1910-16). The author of thirteen books of fiction, FRANCINE PROSE is a fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities and the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers.

Excerpt

Those two girls, Constance and Sophia Baines, paid no heed to the manifold interest of their situation, of which, indeed, they had never been conscious. They were, for example, established almost precisely on the fifty-third parallel of latitude. A little way to the north of them, in the creases of a hill famous for its religious orgies, rose the river Trent, the calm and characteristic stream of middle England. Somewhat further northwards, in the tear neighbourhood of the highest public-house in the realm, rose two lesser rivers, the Dane and the Dove, which, quarrelling in early infancy, turned their backs on each other, and, the one by favour of the Weaver and the other by favour of the Trent, watered between them the whole width of England, and poured themselves respectively into the Irish Sea and the German Ocean. What a county of modest, unnoticed rivers! What a natural, simple county, content to fix its boundaries by these tortuous island brooks, with their comfortable names -- Trent, Mease, Dove, Tern, Dane, Mees, Stour, Tame, and even hasty Severn! Not that the Severn is suitable to the county! In the county excess is deprecated. The county is happy in not exciting remark. It is content that Shropshire should possess that swollen bump, the Wrekin, and that the exaggerated wildness . . .

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