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The Old Wives' Tale by [Arnold Bennett]
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The Old Wives' Tale Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 101 customer reviews

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Length: 569 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Product Description

Review

Threaded with wry and ironical observations on the Victorian age. -- NYTBR.

Book Description

A long-neglected twentieth century masterpiece about the lives of two sisters, spanning seventy years of the nineteenth century from Northern England to Paris

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1872 KB
  • Print Length: 569 pages
  • Publisher: Housemartin Classics (22 Jan. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00I0YMODY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 101 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #543,364 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
While Bennett is always readable and usually very enjoyable, this book is probably his masterpiece. It tells the story of two sisters from the Five Towns whose lives take very different turns and who, after many years, are restored to one another.
Constance remains in the family business and while strong and determined, maintains the outlook of a provincial matron, facing the ups and downs, economic and social, of life running a large drapery shop. Sophia runs off to Paris with a cad, soon gets his measure and then decides to make her own life running an upmarket boarding house. While neither woman's life can be said to be happy or especially fulfilled, the reconciliation of the two sisters is moving and believable (it made me cry, anyway!) and their last years described with a gentle, sardonic humour which adds a different dimension to that of most of the French realists Bennett admired. This is an outstanding novel and in my view should be on the reading list of everyone who wants to think of themselves as a well-read person!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I have just read an old, battered copy of this novel, with its pages coming adrift and its hardback cover yellowed with age but it has been one of the best reads I've had in years. Bennett's enveloping saga of 2 very different sisters from young adulthood to old age and death is so skillfully and powerfully written that, at times, it took my breath away. I tried to get a copy of The Old Wive's Tale from my local library, having just enjoyed Bennett's Anna of the Five Towns. When I asked for the author by name the librarian smirked and said she didn't think he was very popular any more. (It was almost a case of Arnold WHO?) It's a crime! I find Bennett's writing in this novel as fresh and relevant to today's human condition as any of our present day writers. Please read this novel, you will be glad you did!!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I confess that the first time I tried to read this it defeated me, I found it simply too slow-moving, but a few months on I decided to give it another go and was very pleasently surprised. It is the life-story of two sisters, Constance and Sophia, daughters of a small-town draper. Constance is steady and reliable, she marries one of the assistants in the shop and they take over the business when her father dies. Her life is relatively uneventful, work punctuated by the birth of her beloved only child, (with whom she is absolutely besotted), and the untimely death of her husband. Sophia by contrast elopes with a travelling salesman, and runs away with him to Paris, where he proceeds to squander his fortune and then finally abandons her. Sophia though has the commonsense of her upbringing to fall back on, and manages to rise above all this.
Much has been written about the influence of the 19th century French realist writers on Bennett in this book, but I found him better. Zola's pessimistic view of life I find too exasperating at times. In this book Sophia develops realistically from a dreamy irresponsible schoolgirl into a young woman with a robust attitude to the world. Nowhere is this done better than the chapters where she falls ill with a fever and is taken in by a middle-aged courtesan. When the courtesan is left abandoned by her last lover, Sophia is shocked by the way the lady has humiliated herself trying to hang onto him. Why didn't she simply put aside some of her vast earnings from her heyday for when this was bound to happen? Here we have the shop-keeper's daughter in all her tremendous commonsense glory. Her feckless husband is also well-drawn and very believable. He's not wicked, just simply devoid of any kind of sense or responsibility.
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Format: Paperback
Many books by great writers that trace the whole lives of their subjects capture your imagination and emotions effectively, but this is something special. There's something in the way Bennett writes that feels honest and real: he doesn't take the easy options in storyline and is never sentimental. As a result the characters in this novel ring true. You never think, as you may with lesser writers, 'that wouldn't happen, Sophia wouldn't do that' instead you think 'Why did she do that?' and it sets you thinking, filling in the gaps from your own experience and thus personalising the experience. The characters aren't different or special: they could be anyone, they are us... and you'll undoubtedly recognise aspects of your own life somewhere in them.

In the final section of this book Bennett asks the question 'what is life for?', and I think gets as close as you can to answering it.
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Format: Paperback
Arnold Bennett is a great writer, albeit long out of fashion. In this novel he follows the careers of two sisters whose lives take completely different courses. Bennett captures the world of the potteries town of "Bursley" in the second half of the 19th century, and the very different world of Paris. His characterizations, his deep compassion for people, his evocation of place, and the accessibility of his writing make this novel a joy. The introduction by John Wain is unusually helpful and insightful. I recommend this purchase thoroughly.
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