The Old Wives' Tale

The Old Wives' Tale

Book - 1990
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Relates the experiences of two sisters, one who marries her father's assistant and spends her life in their drapery shop and the other who elopes with an irrisistible and unscrupulous heir.
Publisher: London : Penguin, 1990
ISBN: 9780141442112
Characteristics: 617 p. ; 20 cm


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Oct 27, 2016

This is a powerful story, well-written and not difficult to get in to at all as the action is quite cinematic. It would make a wonderful BBC costume drama, in fact. Though set in the past, the observations about humanity and family dynamics are relevant to any age. Enjoy!

Oct 21, 2014

Originally, I thought this long Edwardian novel was going to be a drag and while it took a while to get into, it ended up being a great, moving, and understated work by English writer Arnold Bennett. Inspired by 19th century French writers (Flaubert, Zola, De Maupassant) and by seeing a "fat, shapeless, ugly and grotesque" old woman in a Paris cafe, Bennett tells the story of two sisters who grow up in a provincial town. One elopes with a feckless salesman who quickly abandons her, while the other marries, has a child, and continues the family business. The narrative follows both sisters individually before reuniting them in the final chapters. While it demands some patience and perseverance, it's a rewarding, powerful novel about family, failure, and the forces that shape people. One of the Modern Library's best novels of the century.

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