The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett

This book was first published in 1908 but Arnold Bennett was looking back to the Potteries area of North England in the 1860s, around about the time that the country was opening up with railways just being built and all the changes in society which that caused.

When the story begins the Baines family is doing well with their drapery business in Bursley, a small market town, the story follows the family over the next 50 years. At the beginning the Baines daughters Constance and Sophia are 15 and 16 years old and their lives take very different turns as one stays at home, ending up running the business whilst the other runs off and ends up in France.

The men in the family play a small part compared with the women, mainly because they die much earlier or just disappear. Bennett was obviously far more interested in the womenfolk.

I enjoyed this but not as much as I expected to. I remember reading quite a few of Bennett’s ‘Potteries’ books when I was a teenager and they appealled to me far more then than now.

Mind you, it must be at least five months since I finished reading this book, I just haven’t got around to blogging about it in all that time, but large parts of the story are still clear in my mind, and I certainly can’t say the same for a lot of books which I’ve read.

This is another book which was on my Classics Club reading list. By the by, when I was compiling my list of classic books to read I wasn’t really sure what constituted a ‘classic’. I was surprised when I had a look at other people’s lists that lots of them included books which I clearly remember being published and in fact I remember Jack waiting for the next in the series of Len Deighton books to be published, and I’m sure some people have them on their lists. I suppose a classic is something which is still in print 20 or 30 years after it was first published. It makes me feel old though.

6 thoughts on “The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett

  1. I read The Old Wives Tale a few years ago and loved it, but I didn’t know a thing about it or Arnold Bennett. I’d only heard of it because it’s on the Modern Library Top 100 Novels list. I still have Anna of the Five Towns and I want to read more of his works.

    For me, a book has to be older than me to be a classic.

    • Karen K,
      I read this one because I remembered that you had enjoyed it so much. That’s a good rule of thumb for a classic. Yesterday Penguin published a new book by Morrissey as a Classic Penguin, he insisted on it apparently. How is that possible when nobody had even read it? They should have told him where to get off!

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