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Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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The Old Wives' Tale (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 18, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Bennett's masterpiece . . . There are few more moving accounts of the effects of time, the passage of history and the slow encroachment of age than this remarkable, epic novel." —Guardian


"It's not just a wonderful story; it's also an expressionist masterpiece, almost surreal at times. It's also an amazing feat of empathy . . . It's also very intimate, and highly emotional. In fact, it's the perfect novel." —Deborah Moggach, Independent


"Arguably the finest novel written by an Englishman in the 20th century." —Daily Telegraph


"Arnold Bennett did write one indisputable masterpiece, The Old Wives' Tale, and that is where I recommend you start . . . Each time I'm in the midst of reading it, I think it the best novel ever written." —Wendy Lesser, New York Times


"For Bennett . . . compassion is not soggy. It involves understanding. The core of his writing is psychological truth, clinically observed, crisply reported." —Sunday Times

From the Inside Flap

With a New Introduction by Francine Prose
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.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (December 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141442115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141442112
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #709,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I'm certainly not the only person in the world who thinks of this book as a masterpiece. The fact that H.G. Wells, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf all praise this book as being so is one of the reasons I picked it up. In spite of that, I really read it without set expectations.
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".
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Biography of 2 English sisters spanning later half of 19th century. Constance, the good-natured older sister, grew up, married and raised a family all in the bonding accordance of social and familial expectation, while the beautiful Sophia's stubbornly independent streak propelled her to elope from her family, country and tradition into an utterly varied life. Both main characters are brilliantly etched inside and out, divulging both the beauty and frailty of human endeavor.
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Format: Paperback
I read a 1911 hardback edition, with an Arnold Bennett's introduction which gave away a lot of the plot. In this review, I'll try not to make the mistake that Arnold Bennett made -- that may be the only mistake in the book. This is one of those rare books which feature people and places you know: the characters act -- not as you expect them to act -- but as real people do. And that's not all: this book -- with one of the dullest titles imaginable -- gives us a microcosm of life in the late nineteenth century but one which is connected to life in the 21st. It's recognizable, and yet it isn't. Threaded in this book are histories of marketing, mercantilism, urban developement, fashion, mass transit. They are presented in such a way that you can see how we ended up where we are.
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By A Customer on August 27, 2002
Format: Paperback
I first read this wonderful book many years ago. Recently, I happened to pick it up again (before giving it to my daughter to read), and thought, well, I'll just read a few pages, to see if it's as good as I remember it to be. I stayed up all night rereading it. "The Old Wives' Tale" is a heartbreaker, but superb. As somone else has pointed out, there's a real villain in the book, but the villain isn't human: it's Time. It's difficult for me to imagine anyone reading the last few lines without being touched. I agree with Somerset Maugham: I feel presumptuous even praising it. For those who were "disappointed" with it, may I say, with another commentator, that these people will probably be disappointed with The Day of Judgment.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the second Bennett book I read set in the Five Towns area (the first was Anna of the Five Towns). This book is longer and more complex but carries on the direct form of writing that seems to characterize Bennett's work. The direct, simple form of his prose draws the reader in and involves her in the experiences in these two women's lives. The ending, though expected, is still tragic and leaves the reader to reconsider what life is and just how it affected the sisters. I wish I could find more books by him about the five towns. I read voraciously and am always surprised by how moved I have been by Mr. Bennett's work. Readers will not be disappointed if they give him a chance.
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Format: Paperback
The continuing saga of a mother and her two daughters.Mrs Baines is the middle aged boisterous woman who runs rule of the family business as her invalid husband lies in wait of his demise.The Baines` have two young daughters-Constance ( intelligent and stable)and Sofia (beautiful and flighty).the ideal of the story was to examine how one would perceive "a Mrs Baines" if you were to encounter her on the street or in a cafe.would you see her as an old rude lady?Would you be able to invision the possibility that in her younger days she was as Constance and Sofia are? And ther lies the basis of the story-how does one go from being a beautiful,fun loving girl to a boisterous old lady.Well as the story delves further into their lives we witness everything that happens and therefore shapes their lives.In real life events, whether large or small will determine our next path in life and here we get to see where they end up.
A terrific read for something written in 1908.
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