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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest insights into English rural life ever.
Precious Bane is a classic of historical literature written by the comparatively unknown author Mary Webb. Published in 1924 but set in her native Shropshire 100 years earlier, the story of Precious Bane has the scope, power, insight and plot of anything by Thomas Hardy, George Elliot, or the Brontes. Written in a rather quaint ( and easy to read ) dialect it tells the...
Published on 21 Jun 2001 by Phillip Shallcross

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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars it's not prose!
I would like to alert potential buyers to the fact that the 2003 paperback edition of "Precious Bane" with the yellow leaf on the cover is not in fact the novel, but a short dramatized version of it. The link "look inside another edition of the book" does in fact show you the beginning of the novel from an older edition, but this paperback only contains a theatrical...
Published on 11 April 2007 by Anastasia Z.


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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest insights into English rural life ever., 21 Jun 2001
By 
Phillip Shallcross (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Precious Bane (VMC) (Paperback)
Precious Bane is a classic of historical literature written by the comparatively unknown author Mary Webb. Published in 1924 but set in her native Shropshire 100 years earlier, the story of Precious Bane has the scope, power, insight and plot of anything by Thomas Hardy, George Elliot, or the Brontes. Written in a rather quaint ( and easy to read ) dialect it tells the story of a young farm girl who was born with a hare lip. The strongly conceived plot is supported by some of the finest descriptions of period rural life ever. The running of a mixed farm, the market, the hiring fair, bull-baiting, the customs, the characters, the hierarchy and the countryside birds, flowers and dragonflies are weaved together into a heart-rending love story. No wonder the then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin ( 1928 ) was moved to write an introduction to the book.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliantly sensitive book for everyone., 10 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Precious Bane has been my constant companion since the age of 13. Over the past 27 years I have read it many, many times, sometimes just opening the book to any page, haphazard fashion, and getting completely emersed in the beauty of the language that captures the true essence of English country life in the early twentieth century. The story is told from the perspective of a young woman who is very sensitive to the changes of mood of both Nature and Man. There are words of wisdom in every page and lessons of life to be learnt from every situation and character in the book. A remarkable book that cannot be be praised enough.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Far better than Hardy, 10 Aug 2009
This review is from: Precious Bane (VMC) (Paperback)
I picked this book up on a whim, with very dim memories of the BCC TV production starring Janet McTeer (I think)and was completely knocked off by feet by reading it. I think it is one of the best novels I have ever read- Webb creates a new world and peoples it with sometimes bizarre but always believable characters, who work towards their inevitable fate. The descriptions are almost ornate, but never seem contrived or forced. Pru Sarn must be a unique heroine.
I was angry after reading this book. Why? I had no idea how good the book would be and wondered why no-one had told me about it before. Having had to chug through the "joys" of Thomas Hardy, in particular "Jude the Obscure" (surely one of the worst "great novels" ever), at university, I wondered by we had no mention of a writer who can evoke rural life with its tragedies and glories far better than the flag boy for the Dorset Tourist Board.
If you are even slightly interested, then please, please give this a go.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books, 14 Jan 2009
By 
Alun Williams "mathematician manqué" (Peterborough,England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Precious Bane (VMC) (Paperback)
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.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars review of precious bane by mother of two, 6 April 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Precious Bane (VMC) (Paperback)
Precious Bane is a passionate book where nature is immensly powerful and human spirit is inspiring.I have re-read it many times and consider Pru to be a thrilling if unconventional heroine. She is good in every sense and the reader feels every one of her emotions. The life she leads is extraordinary, dictated by nature and superstition. Her isolation would make most of us weep,but Pru's truly strong character survives and thrives. The triumph of her love for the weaver makes my heart sing.This book is a joy and the perfect antidote to the american best seller.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars MARY WEBB'S MASTERPIECE, 29 April 2008
This review is from: Precious Bane (VMC) (Paperback)
Mary webb only wrote 6 novels in her short, tragic life. And with one of these , she died before completion. Each novel is magical and has something to offer to the discerning reader. Precious Bane is her masterpiece, though Gone to Earth is not far behind. A lot has already been said about this book and the characters. Mary Webb had an amazing feel for nature and her descriptive writing is stunningly beautiful. The heroine of this novel, Prudence Sarn is really Mary Webb in many ways.She had grave's diesease from a very young age. The frequent bouts grew worse as she grew older and her appearance ( mainly her large eyes, very bulging ) led her to experience a lot of the sad reactions and hostility that Pru Sarn does.Poor Mary Webb, a superb, delicate novelist and a wonderful poet who had so much talent to offer. The very sad thing is that her novels and poetry never sold well until after her death at 46.just before she died , the then Prime minister Stanley Baldwin publicly acclaimed Precious Bane, soon after this she died, then her works became huge sellers, reprinted many times. Gone To earth was filmed beautifully with Jennifer Jones and all location work was in Mary's beloved Shropshire.Of course the film , despite being magical never really captured the complete novel.But to see it enables the reader / viewer to see the county Mary loved.Precious Bane is set in the Shropshire of the past, the county that Mary set all her novels in. Precious Bane is a wonderful, evocative piece of writing. No one wrote like Mary, no one could capture the descriptive powers she had. Read all her works, her books are available and second hand copies can be found pretty cheap.I have explored Shropshire and been to Spring Cottage to see the house that Mary had built, it enabled a greater understanding of this sadly neglected writer.It does my heart good to see so many positive reviews on this page, Mary webb would have loved that as she appreciated people's thoughts . She was a sensitive woman and I feel would have delighted in these lovely, appreciative reviews.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully crafted book, my favourite!, 9 Nov 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Precious Bane (VMC) (Paperback)
Precious Bane has as its heroine Prudence Sarn, a young woman persecuted by her local community as a witch, because of her hair lip. She observes the workings of the natural world around her as she works with her brother Gideon, on their farm in Shropshire at the beginning of the 18th century. The book follows Gideon's relentless ambition for money and power and the devasation it leaves in its wake. And at its centre, it follows the impossible love that Prudence has for the weaver, Kester. The book is peopled with characters who stay with you after the book is read: Beguildy the wizard, Jancis who truly loved Gideon and paid the ultimate price, Tilly the Parsons daughter who caused so much harm, Gideon with his brooding passion and heart of granite, and of course Kester and Prue, who shine as two pure spirits in an otherwise cruel and heartless world.
This book is written with such an observation for nature and the seasons that it almost takes your breath away. And the virtue of its heroine, and her honest and enduring love for Kester, is as inspiring as it is moving.
I love this book, despite it's send up by Stella Gibbons in "Cold Comfort Farm". Read it for the beautiful prose with which Mary Webb describes the natural world surrounding Sarn and Sarn mere. And read if for the real heartstopping romance of it. You'll either love it or hate it.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prue Sarn - my favourite heroine, 1 Nov 2005
By 
Nadia (Oxfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Precious Bane (VMC) (Paperback)
Oh, this is a wonderful book and very unusual. Anyone who feels a sense of the primeval in the countryside, will appreciate Mary Webbs observations of nature. She "listens" to nature and describes it's secrets. Secrets of something beyond this world. Pantheism, I suppose.
Prue Sarn is my favourite heroine of all the hundreds of good novels I have read. I like her simplicity and innocence, her "merry ways and her mocking ways", her human-ness and her droll observations of human nature.
The background of rural life in olden times, with it's customs and superstitions, makes for a richness of texture, which is very satisfying.
And the growing of love between Prue and Kester Woodseaves the weaver, is very sweet.
This book is generally overlooked by scholarly literary critics, so I was pleased to discover recently, that it was admired by C.S. Lewis, lecturer in literature at both Oxford and Cambridge universities.
I've noticed that cynical, "modern" types tend to despise this book, so if you are "one of them", I wouldn't bother with it!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Too well hidden gem in English literature, 14 May 2010
By 
Laura E. Bean "BeanReads" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Precious Bane (VMC) (Paperback)
Mary Webb is under appreciated now much as she was in her own lifetime and her output of the so-called Nature novel is overlooked in favor of other authors such as Hardy. One reason for this may be the dialect used throughout, although I cannot agree that this renders the text impenetrable. Rather one quickly becomes accustomed and this adds more colour and authenticity to the telling.

Something most striking about the novel is also true of Mary Webb's other work such as Gone to Earth in the beauty of the description which hints at her other poetic output and betrays the depth of love for the Shropshire countryside felt by both Prue Sarn, the heroine of Precious Bane and also of the author.

The story itself s extremely compelling and introduces a range of characters where even more minor protagonists (for example the child-like mother or the text-obsessed Sammy) are fully realized and rounded.

Prue Sarn is a wonderful narrator and I genuinely grew to love her. Her strength when required was a welcome break from the general passivity of her nature and while biddable (she effectively allows herself to become a slave to her charismatic brother Gideon) Prue clearly has a will of her own and her submission is born of love rather than fear.

Other reviews have complained of the stock characters used but I disagree. While it is true that Jancis and Gideon may be more typical, protagonists such as Beguildy, who while being the villain of the piece to some extent, also injects an element of humor with his nonsensical claims of wizardom and his interactions with his dry-witted and cynical wife on the subject.

Other accusations from other reviewers center around the moralistic nature of the story which may hold some water but I felt that this was nicely countered by the character of the narrator. While in many ways Prue could be considered to be a character beyond reproach, her world view clearly demonstrates that she neither believes this of herself nor judges others by such an exacting standard. Her interactions with Felena, who Pure clearly perceives as a `forward' woman and a love-rival for the affections of Kester, but this is not held personally against Felena and indeed Prue feels for her because of her cruel treatment at the hands of the other women.

This is a beautiful novel which as suggested by other reviewers does well from multiple readings and is evocative of what is now a lost way of life.
Laura Bean
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars it's not prose!, 11 April 2007
This review is from: Precious Bane (Paperback)
I would like to alert potential buyers to the fact that the 2003 paperback edition of "Precious Bane" with the yellow leaf on the cover is not in fact the novel, but a short dramatized version of it. The link "look inside another edition of the book" does in fact show you the beginning of the novel from an older edition, but this paperback only contains a theatrical adaptation!
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Precious Bane (VMC)
Precious Bane (VMC) by Mary Webb (Paperback - 16 Nov 1978)
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