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Clayhanger [Paperback]

Arnold Bennett
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Jan 2008 Clayhanger (Book 1)
In this, the first volume of an ambitious trilogy intending to trace the parallel lives of a man and woman from youth to marriage and from marriage to old age, Bennett introduces the character of Edwin Clayanger. A sober portrait of a boy growing up under a tyrannical father contrasts with young Edwin's glimpses of the mysterious and tantalizing Hilda Lessways. As the lives of these two characters unfold before us, Bennett uses autobiographical detail to beautifully depict the constraints and spiritual adventures of young life in the Potteries.

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Clayhanger + Anna of the Five Towns + The Old Wives' Tale (Penguin Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 466 pages
  • Publisher: House of Stratus; New Edition edition (12 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0755115899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0755115891
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 244,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Arnold Bennett was a playwright, essayist, critic and journalist. Born in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, and the eldest child of a pawnbroker who had bettered himself and become a solicitor. He became a solicitors clerk at frist in his father's office, and from 1889 in London. He joined the staff of Woman magazine and later became editor. His first novel to be published, A Man From the North appeared in 1898. He went on to write is famous Five Towns Novels, but never returned to the Potteries of his birth. He died on 27 March 1931 from typhoid shortly after a visit to France. His ashes are buried in the cemetery at Burslem, Stoke on Trent. His grandson, Denis Eldin, is the President of the Society and lives in Paris. The Society have just published "Punch & Judy" Arnold Bennett and Silent Cinema, with an introduction by John Shapcott, Keele University - further details on our website at

Product Description


Bennett writes magnificently of the little movements of the spirit in its daily routine --Margaret Drabble

About the Author

Enoch Arnold Bennett, the son of a solicitor, was born in Hanley, Staffordshire. At twenty-one, he moved to London, initially to work as a solicitor's clerk, but he soon turned to writing popular serial fiction and editing a women's magazine. After the publication of his first novel, A Man From the North in 1898, he became a professional writer. He moved to Paris and became a man of cosmopolitan and discerning tastes. Bennett's great reputation is built upon the success of his novels and short stories set in the Potteries, an area of north Staffordshire that he recreated as the 'Five Towns'. Anna of the Five Towns and The Old Wives' Tale show the influence of Flaubert, Maupassant and Balzac as Bennett describes provincial life in great detail. Arnold Bennett is an important link between the English novel and European realism. He wrote several plays and lighter works such as The Grand Babylon Hotel and The Card.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bennett's masterpiece 1 Feb 1999
By A Customer
This book is the crowning achievement of one of the most under-rated writers in the English language. The characterisation, the pain and the sheer intuitive understanding of the human condition combine to make this truly a masterpiece. Snobs may look on Bennett as 'middle-brow' or dated; this book proves he is no such thing. Finer than Old Wives Tales, it entrenches the realist style he learned from France (Zola,Flaubert etc) within a setting that brought out his best; the potteries. And throughout you find the eye for detail, the joy in the 'interestingness of existence' (his own phrase). Rediscover this forgotten gem.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CLAYHANGER 18 Oct 2005
As a former print worker in the old fashioned days I found his descriptions of the print trade interesting but as well as giving graphic descriptions of the potteries he also brings his characters to life. I set about reading all Arnold Bennett's books but I only found this one a great read.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging read. 28 April 1999
By A Customer
The story of a man from leaving school to middle age, set in an industrial town in the English midlands at the end of the 19th century. Sounds boring, but it isn't. Slow for the first few chapters, but then I found it unputdownable, you really get interested and want to know what happens. Lots of description of the environment of the time. No sex or violence, written not long after these actual times, so some bits of old fashioned prose. This aside, reminded me of Len Deighton's style of writing. I was a bit doubtful about buying this book, but I'm pleased I did.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel with great integrity 31 Mar 2003
A boy grows up, meets, loses, then finds again, a girl. This is a weighty volume, packed with detail and interesting characters. A great deal of its success comes from the character of Edwin Clayhanger, a person with a kind of shambling charm. You are led to empathise with Edwin completely; you see everything from his point of view, and you hear his thoughts. This book creates a very real world. There are some archaic turns of speech, which sometimes get a bit irritating, and a bit too much authorial comment, but it's a very readable book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This review discusses the whole Clayhanger trilogy, but concentrates mainly on this book. "Clayhanger" is about the trials and tribulations, loves and hates of Edwin Clayhanger, a progressive printer in the Stoke-on-Trent area at the end of the 19th century. Edwin is hopelessly intelligent, refreshingly optimistic if sometimes naive, has a powerful sense of duty, and combines an almost total inability to understand women with a refreshingly frank and unconditional acceptance of his love for Hilda Lessways. I found him an extremely likeable character, totally empathetic. Throughout, there is a conflict between his business acumen and his innate timidity - which leads him into the most heartbreaking problems in his personal life. This book compels the reader to find out why certain things happened, and what happens next.

"Hilda Lessways" covers much of the same ground as "Clayhanger", but also provides some background on Hilda, the love of Edwin's life. However, its main purpose is to fill in the narrative gaps from "Clayhanger" by telling the story from Hilda's viewpoint and experiences. Hilda is a stunning character - impulsive, passionate, exciting - often verging on losing the sympathy of the reader - but never quite making it. She is one of those people who is desperate to make things happen, but ends up with things happening to her. If I hadn't married the real thing, I would be in love with her myself!

The final part of the trilogy "These Twain" takes Hilda and Edwin from a late marriage to a prosperous, if tempestuous, middle age. It's impossible to discuss without giving too much of the game away.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clayhanger and Hilda Lessways 8 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This and Hilda Lessways are a uniquely ambitious project in English fiction. Two large-scale and fully worked novels, each of which aims to transform our understanding of life as it was lived in the twentieth century, are mirror images of each other. Each tells the same story from a precisely equal and opposite angle. Clayhanger is Edwin's story, as Hilda Lessways is the story from the point of view of the girl and woman around whom his whole life revolves. The two books complete a perfect circle, and one could go on reading each after the other for the insights that they provide into Edwin and Hilda's folie a deux, their tragically incomplete understanding of what they mean to each other, and what their lives mean when they are together or apart.

Nobody depicts working life, whether it is in shopkeeping, printing, manufacturing or running a guesthouse, better than Bennett, and this alone should be enough to single him out from among British novelists. Too many of our most highly rated writers appear to have no idea what it is like to spend day after day at work, but Bennett does. These two novels are heavy with the weariness of characters who have to earn every penny that comes to them through sweat, blood, tears and compromise.

Bennett's prose has a hypnotic, mesmerising quality. We are drawn into the inner life of every character, his or her consciousness, with an immediacy and authenticity that it is hard to find in any other writer. Joyce's Molly Bloom is nothing to it. The sense of personal presence and lived experience creates an excitement and expectancy that draws the reader on into unknown eventualities, and keeps us turning the pages.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
An excellent story. I'm now reading Hilda Lessways - the series does need to be read to make sense of the whole story.
Published 16 days ago by douglas
3.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous read. You will be transported in another time...
Great book!

I re-read it after HAVING to read this for GCE O level many years ago.

Bought it for my sister who lives where the story takes place. Read more
Published 22 days ago by P. Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars Clayhanger
A good read - though the story stops a bit abruptly - leaving you assuming what happened next! Another chapter would not have gone amiss!
Published 5 months ago by Alan Reeve
4.0 out of 5 stars Good storytelling
Easy to read. Trouble at printers. Shows how people adapt to circumstances. The start of a series of novels by a master storyteller. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Alan Read&weed
4.0 out of 5 stars Maturity versus Age
A fascinating tale of the growth & maturity of Edwin, set against the decline of his father. The events towards the end mean that "Clayhanger" is actually a cliffhanger. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Margaret Trelfa
4.0 out of 5 stars A view of the past
I liked this glimpse of upwardly mobile family life in victorian times, with all the standards and mores of those in "trade". Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jennifer Penny
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Bennett
I love this author and this novel is classic Bennett. He draws his characters with such sympathy and recreates the world of the Potteries with skill and wonderful detail. Read more
Published 9 months ago by KLP
5.0 out of 5 stars Clayhanger
I first rad Clayhanger in 1957, 66 years ago, as it was a set book for O Level Literature. I loved it then and rereading it brough back so many pleasant memories. Read more
Published 10 months ago by CLCAULFIELD
5.0 out of 5 stars An critically acclaimned epic
Bennett's best in the 'Five Towns' series, it is simply Great Literature. From the very start, on the day Edwin Clayhanger leaves school and we meet him chatting casually to his... Read more
Published 11 months ago by aismorienne
5.0 out of 5 stars and more stars if i could
It's taken me 55 years to get round to reading arnold bennett and so glad I did. Brill. Read all the trilogy/fourology !
Published 13 months ago by Mr. E. Dierl
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