The Old Wives' Tale

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Author: Arnold Bennett
Published: 1908
Language: English
Wordcount: 217 / 630 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 59.4
LoC Category: PR
Series: Five Towns
Downloads: 3,890 1018

This novel follows the lives of two very different sisters, Constance and Sophia Baines, from their youth, working in their mother's draper's shop, to their old age. It is generally regarded as one of Bennett's finest works.

Show Excerpt

, applied science, organized manufacture, and the century--until you come to Wolverhampton. They are unique and indispensable because you cannot drink tea out of a teacup without the aid of the Five Towns; because you cannot eat a meal in decency without the aid of the Five Towns. For this the architecture of the Five Towns is an architecture of ovens and chimneys; for this its atmosphere is as black as its mud; for this it burns and smokes all night, so that Longshaw has been compared to hell; for this it is unlearned in the ways of agriculture, never having seen corn except as packing straw and in quartern loaves; for this, on the other hand, it comprehends the mysterious habits of fire and pure, sterile earth; for this it lives crammed together in slippery streets where the housewife must change white window-curtains at least once a fortnight if she wishes to remain respectable; for this it gets up in the mass at six a.m., winter and summer, and goes to bed when the public-houses close; for this it exists-


Average Rating of 5 from 4 reviews: *****

A masterpiece by an old master worth reading again and again. More than excellent!

Im Cheungjun

I love modernist novels like Ulysses and At Swim-Two-Birds, but this novel made me re-recognize the tremendous achievements of an old masters, Arnold Bennett. I was really deeply absorbed in reading this for five days. Wonderful storytelling.


Excellent character study of two sisters' lives, from young girls to old age. The author shows alot of insight into marriage, parenthood,and friendship. Don't let the length of the novel dissuade you from reading it. The author's style makes this story fly by, and the plot contains some interesting turns of events in the women's lives.

Jim Crainie

The book narrates the life-history of two sisters Constance and Sophia born to a draper and his wife in mid-nineteenth century England. Sounds dull? Don't you believe it! This is a wonderfully poignant and heart-warming story recording the hopes and aspirations of the sisters as they travel through life. The characters of Constance and Sophia are beautifully drawn. The sisters exude warmth and charm and you want to keep on reading to find out what happens to them next. A long book, it starts at a cracking pace, dips a little in the middle but ends with a fine flourish. Why have I not heard more of this excellent author? This book will remain in my memory for a long time and I can highly recommend it.

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