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 group I am a member of, half afraid that some people would find its old-fashioned plot and rural dialect a little ridiculous. Instead, every member of the group loved it, and it is the only book ever to get a 5 star rating from everyone.
I have read all Mary Webb's novels, and this is by far her best work, and sadly the only one I can recommend whole-heartedly, though "Gone to Earth" is also well worth reading - especially for anyone interested in feminism or the history of attitudes towards sexuality. Seven for a Secret is a good tale, The Golden Arrow not quite so good. The House in Dormer Forest is quite unlike her other completed novels, and is sometimes supposed to have inspired "Cold Comfort Farm", although it is quite satirical enough itself. But all these other books are marred to some extent by third person narrative, which unfortunately allows Mary Webb herself to become an at times intrusive and preachy presence. Precious Bane, with its first person narration, by one of the most endearing heroines ever to grace an English novel, is perfect.