SUMMARY The Old Wives' Tale 107

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SUMMARY The Old Wives' Tale 107 » 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 EnglaMen 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 Wa. This book was a joy to read The characters of Sophia and Constance were excellent There lives chalk and cheese I was not sure what to expect and aside for some incredibly long sentences it was a great novel of the day to day lives of the two sistersThe contrast between the two sisters is incredible The first part describes the two sisters growing up in their fathers drapers shop Constance is constant while Sophia has a wild streak and elopes with a traveling salesman In contrast Constance marries Mr Povey who works at the shop The story covers her life at the drapers shop and the death of her husband and the spoiling of her son Sophia in contrast is abandoned by her husband in Paris where she goes in to establish a successful pensione Later the two now elderly sisters are reunited The story is a masterpiece covering 1840 1905 and the technology and political changes Bennett captures the poignancy of two different lives in a time of change with strong woman characters

SUMMARY í eBook, PDF or Kindle ePUB ↠ Arnold Bennett

Ett 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 wo. I listened to this over a very long car ride Both my husband and I thought it was a very good choice It is easy to follow and keeps your attentionThe book is about two very different sisters—Constance and Sophia Their names clue you in to their respective personalities Constance is constant good natured kind and loving She is a home body who wants to stay put She will be married to a dedicated employee in the family’s drapery store in Bursley Bursley is modeled on Burslem Staffordshire England Sophia is sophisticated curious adventurous and romantic Her dream is to travel the world She is one year younger than Constance She falls in love and marries too to a rogue a scoundrel a philanderer who ups and view spoilerdeserts her hide spoiler

Arnold Bennett ↠ 7 SUMMARY

The Old Wives' TaleFirst 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 Benn. A simple concept of parallels and contrasts in the lives of sisters carefully told with gentle irony It starts in 1864 when Constance and Sophia are 16 and 15 respectively and follows them to the end of their lives Book 1 covers their teenage years together above and in a draper’s shop in a small town in the Staffordshire Potteries central England Book 2 is in the same location but focuses on Constance Book 3 is set in Paris during great political upheaval and war and is about Sophia In book 4 the two threads come together again Bennett modelled it on the great realistic French novels of the time Balzac Flaubert et al; in some ways it is very mundane and yet the attention to detail is extraordinary and compelling As an elderly Sophia muses “ My life has been so ueer – and yet every part of it separately seemed ordinary enough” Image French café scene by Jean Béraud ContrastsIt opens with a description of the bucolic countryside observing “But though Constance and Sophia were in it they were not of it” because “no person who lives in the district ever thinks about the county” even though it’s so much pleasanter than the busy dirty town They are the only children of a bedridden but successful and respected draper whose hatred of “puffing” meant he refused to replace the fallen shop sign lest he “condone yea to participate in the modern craze for unscrupulous self advertisement” The draper’s shop and home is their world and yet their lives end up taking very different paths Sometimes the contrasts are parallel than they first seem and I think this is an aspect that bears further thought and eventual rereading Constance spends her whole life in the town living a traditional life as dutiful daughter wife mother and widow whereas Sophia spends many years in France surviving the Siege of Paris and building independent success Their lives seem so different and for Sophia there is an aspect of missing England when she’s in France and vice versa However despite the apparent exoticism of her life she comes to realise that her “ life in its way had been as narrow as Constance’s Though her experience of humanity was wide she had been utterly absorbed in doing one single thing”I think the only weak point was some aspects of the ending but in such a long and wonderful book it's only a minor issueSisterhoodThe sisters are deliberately treated eually by their parents their workboxes “were different but one was not magnificent than the other Indeed a rigid euality was the rule” and yet “in some subtle way Constance had a standing with her parents which was confidential than Sofia’s” This is clear when Mrs Baines confides in Constance about her problems with Sophia “her tone was peculiar charged with import confidential and therefore very flattering to Constance”They are close though they have very different temperaments with Sophia being the mischievous and “a prey ripe for the evil one” She is clever proud shrewd with money independent and obstinate; she would rather suffer than beg or ask for forgiveness Constance is suited to her name like the continuity and familiarity in her life She is dutiful and happy to assume she will go into the shop but Sophia “had always hated the shop She did not understand how her mother and Constance could bring themselves to be deferential and flattering to every customer that entered”Their teenage banter mild naughtiness trying on mother’s new dress and sneering at a servant from afar could easily be transplanted to teenage sisters anywhere or when Curiously their adult relationship seems like something from a historical novel than their childhood one Is Blindness the Price of LoveA recurring theme is the wilful blindness of love be that of a parent spouse or even another relative All the main characters suffer for it in different ways though one finally acknowledges the truth to herself if not to others and “her affection was unimpaired” For a extreme analysis of this idea that I rated only 2 see Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier which I reviewed HERECan a child of less than five be bad Is it “hidden sullenness or mere callous indifference or a perfect unconsciousness of sin” And is it misguided to say “If we can be happy only when I give way to him I must give way to him” However that is hard to maintain “ She lived for nothing but to please him; he was however exceedingly difficult to please not in the least because he was hypocritical and exacting but because he was indifferent whereas he was the whole of her universe she was merely a dim figure in the background of his”Modernity and Feminine InsightThe book has a curiously modern feeling in some ways In particular Sophia’s teenage rebellion doesn’t feel like something from a Victorian novel though this was written in Edwardian times either in terms of what she says or what she does When defiant she is sullen and evasive exhibits a “diffident boldness” plays the fairness card “Oh of course Constance is always right” answers back with excessive logic “You tell me not to answer back and then you say you’re waiting” and declares “You all want to make me miserable Put me in prison if you like I know you’d be glad if I was dead” One confrontation ends when “with a brusue precipitation of herself vanished upstairs” I’m sure most modern readers have been involved in such conversations Although written by a man all the main characters are women but they are convincingly and insightfully rendered For example Constance’s feelings after her honeymoon are delicately but touchingly described “ She sat there full of new knowledge and new importance brimming with experience and strange unexpected aspirations purposes yes and cunningsYou could see the timid thing old virginal Constance peeping wistfully out of the eyes of the married woman” And the all encompassing love of a new mother for her baby she “dived into the recesses of the perambulator and extricated from its cocoon the centre of the universe and scrutinised him with uiet passion” The awkwardness of breastfeeding in front of others and the stresses of controlled crying not that it’s called that are also discussed At a trivial level problems with builders promises timescales and workmanship are timeless and the etiuette of all you can eat fare troubled even Edwardians apparently the delicate dilemma of “fixed price per day for as much as they can consume while observing the rules of the game in an instant decided how much they could decently take and to what extent they could practise the theoretical liberty of choice they had the right to seize all that was present under their noses like genteel tigers; and they had the right to refuse; that was all”In contrast it is very Victorian in the way that women can be laid low by severe shock or a bit of a chillSympathyIn the Preface Bennett says “it is an absolute rule that the principal characters of a novel must not be unsympathetic” I don’t necessarily agree but he stuck to his principle in this and the others of his that I have read which is not to say that his characters are flat or saccharine And he has no such ualms where some of the minor male characters are concerned uotes• “It is to be remembered that in those days Providence was still busying himself yes him with everybody’s affairs”• The wakes regional festival were “an orgiastic carnival gross in all its manifestations of joy The whole centre of the town was given over to the furious pleasures of the people displaying all the delights of the horrible”• “She was athirst for sympathy in the task of scorning everything local”• Typical Bennett “One of Maggie’s deepest instincts always held in check by the dominance of Mrs Baines was to leave pails prominent on the main routes of the house and now divining what was at hand it flamed into insurrection”• Dr Harrop was “common sense in breeches”• When Mr Scales mentioned his fox terrier bitch he “had no suspicion that he was transgressing a convention by virtue of which dogs have no sex” and I wonder if any Edwardian readers would have balked at Bennett’s use of the word “sex”• Be careful what may be overheard by servants “A clumsy uestion might enlighten a member of the class which ought ever be enlightened about one’s private affairs”• “The era of good old fashioned Christmases so agreeably picturesue for the poor was not yet at an end”• “The remarkable notion that twelve thousand pounds represents the infinity of wealth that this sum possessed special magical properties which rendered it insensible to the process of subtraction”• “Good clothes when put to the test survive a change in fortune as a Roman arch survives the luxury of departed empire”• “The irrational obstinacy of a physically weak man who sticks to it that he can defy the laws of nature”• Bennett loves writing about hotels and says “critically examining newcomers was one of the amusements of the occupants of the lounge”• “The patched and senile drabness of the hotel bedroom”• You can tell respectable hotel guests because “their clothes did not flatter the lust of the eye”• “The respectability of a luxury private hotel makes proper every act that passes within its walls”Modern British Asian RetellingHugely disappointing and I suggest avoiding it My review is here Marriage Material