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Riceyman Steps (Dodo Press) Paperback – 11 Apr 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Dodo Press (11 April 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1409908267
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409908265
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.7 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,088,109 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 www.arnoldbennettsociety.org.uk

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Review

Bennett writes magnificently of the little movements of the spirit in its daily routine --Margaret Drabble --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Shivari VINE VOICE on 17 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
What makes a great novel? Surely it is something about how we engage with human nature - both our own and others'. I have never read a book like Riceyman Steps - and having been an avid reader since childhood I have read *many* books. No other novel has ever made me so emotionally engaged with the characters. I found myself literally talking out loud to the characters, trying to persuade them to change their ways; in fact, at times I was actually shouting at them. As a therapist, I know that this is not because I have 'issues' around the subject matter. Rather, it is a testament to Bennett's skill that he drew me in to this world that starts off ordinary, promises happiness, but becomes increasingly dark and distressing.

Bennett at his best is a great writer. What I appreciate is that he keeps things rooted in the ordinary. His characters are just people - like you and me and the people next door. His style is simple (in the same way, I feel, as Guy de Maupassant) and I have always thought them surprisingly modern in style. Many books from this period (late 19th - early 20th century) can feel rather turgid in their style - you have to really *want* to read them. This is not the case with Bennett, perhaps because he writes from the perspective of an ordinary person rather than striving for 'literary style'.

Some people will know Bennett from the TV series 'Clayhanger' in the 1970s, since when he seems to have been forgotten. It is high time people rediscovered him.

One of the best books ever? I don't know. All I can say is that of the thousands of books I have read few have moved me like this one.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Holt on 10 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
First, a bit of a rant. Nothing to do with the book, but a moan about the declining standards of Amazon's review system. This fine novel is marked down by two reviews complaining about the poor quality of the edition. These clearly do not apply to the House of Stratus edition to which these reviews are supposed to refer. It may have some typos, I haven't really noticed any. Personally, I regard it as an excellent edition, as with the other Stratus Bennetts, of which I have several. In fact, I consider the Stratus as technically superior, for example, to the Penguin Classics editions - largely because of poor quality printing in the latter.

Now, to the book. This award-winning novel from Bennett's later output is, in common with many of his works, profoundly tragic, comic, and - above all - compassionate and understanding all at the same time. The focus of the novel is not the increasingly bizarre bookseller who opens it, nor his soon-to-be-acquired wife, nor even the highly skilfully-developed account of their peculiar marriage. No, the "hero" is Elsie - the "stupid" and "clumsy" maid - only Elsie has the sense and wit to try and avert the inevitable tragedy of the household. Those readers thinking Bennett's characters in this, and earlier tragi-comic novels, are too extreme to be real should remember that Bennett was writing before the advent of social services, the NHS, and so on. When virtually the only control on personal behaviour is peer-group pressure (and how oppressive and ignorant that can be!), it is inevitable that phobias and psychoses could develop more or less unchecked.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By BookAddictUK VINE VOICE on 7 Jun. 2002
Format: Paperback
Bennett is master of the study of miniscule, and this is no exception. An intense, shocking study of a year in the lives of Mr Earlsforward, a bookseller in Clerkenwell, and the women he marries in middle age, Mrs Arb, and their devoted charwoman, Elsie. Earlsforward is obsessively economical in life - with money, with words, with affection and certainly with commen sense. And his obsessions have a profound, shocking, and ultimately fatal, impact on those over whom he is master, sometimes - his wife and his "general". If you like Bennett, you'll love this. If you havn't read Bennett before, then this is the perfect introduction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By sally tarbox TOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
Utterly engrossing tale of bookseller Mr Earlforward, who becomes taken with neighbouring shopkeeper Mrs Arb when he sees how prudent she is with money (she refuses to pay the full shilling for one of his books.) For the bookseller's grand passion in life is saving money in every possible way.
I loved the description of Mrs Arb having a nose round her suitor's shabby home prior to the wedding:
'Coming out of the bedroom, she perceived between it and the stairs a long, narrow room. Impossible to enter this room because of books; but Mrs Arb did the impossible, and after some excavation with her foot disclosed a bath, which was full to the brim and overflowing with books.'

Also of the frugal existence they come to share together:
'Husband and wife, he in his overcoat and she in her mantle, took their places at the glass-covered table in the fireless room; and the teapot was there and the bread and margarine was there...The blinds were drawn, the curtains were drawn; electric current was burning, if not the gas fire; despite the blackness of the hearth the room had an air, or half an air, of domestic cosiness. Violet poured out the tea, an operation simplified by the total absence of sugar.'

Sharing the couple's life is Elsie, the 'general' who previously worked as a cleaner for each of them. There are issues with Elsie eating too much; and Elsie is pining for her young man who is disturbed from shell shock...
I can't recommend this work enough. It's set in a very small environment, yet Bennett's brilliant understanding of human behaviour makes it utterly enthralling.
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