The Old Wives’ Tale by Arnold Bennett
is a novel written by Arnold Bennett and published in 1908. It is a story about two sisters, Constance and Sophia Baines, who grow up in a small town in the Potteries district of Staffordshire, England. The novel follows their lives as they embark on very different paths, and explores themes of family, love, loss, and the passing of time.
At the start of the novel, Constance and Sophia are running their mother’s small-town drapery business. Constance is the sensible, responsible one, while Sophia is more vivacious and restless. Sophia is eager to leave the town and see the world, while Constance is content with her life as it is. After a chance encounter with a young man named Gerald, Sophia decides to elope with him, leaving Constance to run the business on her own.
The novel then follows the two sisters over the next several decades. Sophia’s life is marked by tragedy, including the death of her husband and the loss of her only child, while Constance’s life is more stable, though not without its own challenges. The two women grow increasingly distant from each other, but are still bound by their shared past and family ties.
Through the lives of these two women, Bennett explores the changing face of England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The novel is set against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution, and Bennett depicts the social and economic changes that were transforming the country at the time. He also examines the changing roles of women in society, as Constance and Sophia both struggle to find their place in a world that is increasingly complex and uncertain.
“The Old Wives’ Tale” is a richly detailed and beautifully written novel that offers a powerful and poignant portrait of two very different women and the world in which they live. Bennett’s writing is nuanced and evocative, and he captures the complexities of human experience with sensitivity and grace. The novel has been widely praised for its realism and its vivid depiction of life in the Potteries district, and is considered one of Bennett’s greatest works.
Overall, “The Old Wives’ Tale” is a timeless novel that continues to resonate with readers today. Its themes of family, love, loss, and the passage of time are universal, and its portrayal of two strong and resilient women is both inspiring and moving. Whether read as a historical novel, a family drama, or a feminist text, “The Old Wives’ Tale” is a masterful work of literature that will continue to captivate and enchant readers for generations to come.