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The Old Wives' Tale (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 18, 2007
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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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Commentary by Rebecca West, W. Somerset Maugham,
Virginia Woolf, H. G. Wells, Henry James, and J. B. Priestley
" [Arnold Bennett's] superb Old Wives' Tale, wandering from person to person and from scene to scene, is by far the finest 'long novel' that has been written in English and in the English fashion, in this generation."
--H. G. Wells
First published in 1908, The Old Wives' Tale affirms the integrity of ordinary lives as it tells the story of the Baines sisters--shy, retiring Constance and defiant, romantic Sophia--over the course of nearly half a century. Bennett traces the sisters' lives from childhood in their father's drapery shop in provincial Bursley, England, during the mid-Victorian era, through their married lives, to the modern industrial age, when they are reunited as old women. The setting moves from the Five Towns of Staffordshire to exotic and cosmopolitan Paris, while the action moves from the subdued domestic routine of the Baines household to the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War.
"Like Wordsworth, [Arnold Bennett] has triumphed over the habitual; he has not let it disguise the particle of beauty from him."--Rebecca West
ARNOLD BENNETT (1867-1931) looked to Flaubert, Maupassant, and Balzac for inspiration in the fashioning of his own acutely realistic novels, including his masterpiece, The Old Wives' Tale (1908). His first novel was A Man from the North (1898), and he is also known for his Clayhanger trilogy (1910-16).
The author of thirteen books of fiction, FRANCINE PROSE is a
fellow of the New York Institute for the Humanities and the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers.
Top Customer Reviews
Briefly, to say what has already been said before, The Old Wives Tale is exactly that - a tale of three women who marry in very different circumstances. Mrs. Baines, the mother, is a life who is only briefly touched upon. However, the seperate lives of the two sisters, Sophia and Constance, are the crux of the book. Each life takes its' turn. We are first told about Constance, then about Sophia, and finally, about their reunion. Constance, whose name is not a coincidence, lives a simple provincial life, and Sophia, whose name also matches her persona, chooses romance and adventure. There is only one villain, and yet, he is perhaps the most powerful and chilling of all villains, Time. His grasping, clutching, suffocating presence is ever felt throughout the book, and looms even larger once that final page is turned. In the end, Sophia and Constance each pay the price for their choices, and the true cost of those choices is left for the reader to decide. As unique as we are, we will each believe something different about Sophia and Constance in the end, and that is precisely the point.
To sum up the experience of The Old Wives Tale, a tale of three women living their lives, and their lives changing them (or perhaps not changing them, is that it is the most honest approach to human psychology I have ever read. The lives we read about, Mrs. Baines, Sophia, Constance, and even those who surround them, could be anyone's. In fact, most of us can find someone in this book we could point to and say "that's me".Read more ›
A terrific read for something written in 1908.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very slow reading. Used too many words that the average reader couldn't understand, so spent a lot of time looking up the meanings. Also was a lot of repeating.Published 1 month ago by LaDonna J Daviscourt
I read this book years ago and recently bought it for one of my granddaughters. It is a beautiful story, compassionate. Some of the scenes, I can still picture vividly. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Carolyn Shoe
I enjoyed reading about their life from young to old age. Was so real.Published 2 months ago by Julia
One of the most magnificent books I have ever read. An undiscovered masterpiece.Published 3 months ago by Gayle
Subtle, interesting and even "modern" treatment of Victorian times, though of course a period piece in various ways; in places deep and moving.Published 5 months ago by alfons bedoya
This is an engaging novel of Victorian attitudes and of well-developed characters, but with some unexpected plot turns and polite intimations of real-life conduct. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Axel Kassel
Loved the book? I'm looking for other novel by Bennett. ThanksPublished 7 months ago by Richard Benjes
Descriptions old-fashioned; Life escape (Virginia Woolf)Published 9 months ago by Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson