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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bennett's masterpiece
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...
Published on 1 Feb. 1999

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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.
Reminds me of characters in HG Wells History of Mr Polly, The War Horse, and other period books.

Lots of warm fuzzys. The writer did well!! As we all know....
Published 9 months ago by P. Johnson


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39 of 40 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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aren't you lucky - this is the first of a trilogy!, 11 Dec. 2010
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This review is from: Clayhanger (Kindle Edition)
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. However, it is a brilliant study of a marriage underpinned by love and mutual respect, but essentially held together by the stimulus of conflict and a (never mentioned, of course) highly successful sex life - not a bad formula!

Contrary to some reviewers, I found this a very modern novel in the sense that it has something relevant to say, albeit in a historical context. "Archaic" language is acceptable in something written 100 years ago! As ever, Bennett is humorous, compassionate, and gives great insight. Combine this with an unerring ability to set scenes with a stunning eye for detail, and provide characters who will always have parallels, and you have a series of great books by a master story teller.
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20 of 21 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clayhanger and Hilda Lessways, 8 Dec. 2012
By 
T. D. Johnstone (Roslin, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Clayhanger (Kindle Edition)
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. We abandon ourselves into the hands of a writer with the magical ability to sustain our interest in the fates of individuals who are unimportant in terms of fame or political or artistic influence.

In the insatiable present tense that Bennett creates it might go unnoticed that he has no other dimension, no entree to any higher level of aesthetic, ethical or spiritual life. There is no transcendence or intuition of beauty or unity in his work, beyond what is suggested almost incidentally through the personal relationships of the main protagonists. Salvation is found in the lead characters' clinging together in the face of the chaotic and demoralising circumstances of their everyday existence.

This is so true to life as most people actually experience it that it is hard to fault Bennett for describing it so faithfully, but it is perhaps the reason why he has never figured as one of the greatest English writers in the pantheon of the most qualified judges. There is among even smart contemporary critics a nostalgia for meaning and for a greater purpose to existence than the grubby realities of our daily lives. But even these grubby realities are beautiful in their way, and Bennett shows us this as few other artists do. Perhaps his time will come.
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15 of 16 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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CLAYHANGER, 18 Oct. 2005
By 
R. C. Morris "rmorris149" (Cardiff Wales) - See all my reviews
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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Bennett, 24 Oct. 2013
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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. I became immersed in the love story of Edwin and Hilda and read this and its sequels in very quick succession. This is the first in a series of 4 novels although it's often called a trilogy. The fourth (The Roll Call) does not compare with the other 3 but is interesting regardless.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Under rated Author., 16 Feb. 2012
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I read this book for my 'O' levels many years ago and have read many Arnold Bennett books since. He is a very under-rated author and deserves to be read more, would also make good tele.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars clayhanger - don't miss reading it, 7 April 2011
By 
Ms. Y. Booth - See all my reviews
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Edwin Clayhanger's character captivated me and left me completely in love with him. Don't miss out on the dvd from the 70's series, which is beautifully done. Peter McEnery's Edwin couldn't be better cast and so sensitively and wittily played. It's also surprisingly funny in parts.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An critically acclaimned epic, 30 Aug. 2013
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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 friend 'Sunday' he engages our sympathy and retains it right through the novel, and also into its part 2 'Hilda Lessways', and thereon to 'These Twain'. The backdrop is the Five Towns, an industrial area in the Midlands. Its depiction is realistic, even naturalistic in its detail - e.g. the episode of the installation of the new steam printing machine at the Clayhanger print works and what followed it. The character of its proprietor, Edwin's father, is far from lovable but he will stay in your memory for a long time. There are many others - Bennett loves these people but is entirely unsentimental in his portrayal of them. An involving, thought-provoking read.
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Clayhanger
Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett (Paperback - 12 Jan. 2008)
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