The Old Wives' Tale
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The Old Wives' Tale

By Arnold Bennett
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Book Description

The Old Wives' Tale is a novel by Arnold Bennett, first published in 1908. It deals with the lives of two very different sisters, Constance and Sophia Baines, following their stories from their youth, working in their mother's draper's shop, into old age. It is generally regarded as one of Bennett's finest works. It covers a period of about 70 years from roughly 1840 to 1905, and is set in Burslem and Paris.
Bennett was initially inspired to write the book by a chance encounter in a Parisian restaurant. In the introduction to the book, he says

...an old woman came into the restaurant to
dine. She was fat, shapeless, ugly, and grotesque. She had a ridiculous voice, and ridiculous gestures. It was easy to see that she lived alone, and that in the long lapse of years she had developed the kind of peculiarity which induces guffaws among the thoughtless.

and

I reflected, concerning the grotesque diner: "This woman was once
young, slim, perhaps beautiful; certainly free from these ridiculous mannerisms. Very probably she is unconscious of her singularities. Her case is a tragedy. One ought to be able to make a heartrending novel out of the history of a woman such as she." Every stout, ageing woman is not grotesque—far from it!—but there is an extreme pathos in the mere fact that every stout ageing woman was once a young girl with the unique charm of youth in her form and movements and in her mind. And the fact that the change from the young girl to the stout ageing woman is made up of an infinite number of infinitesimal changes, each unperceived by her, only intensifies the pathos.

Bennett also found inspiration in Maupassant's novel Une Vie. [1]

From Wikipedia (CC BY-SA).

Table of Contents
  • PREFACE TO THIS EDITION
  • CONTENTS
    • BOOK I.
      • BOOK II.
      • BOOK III.
      • BOOK IV.
  • BOOK I
    • CHAPTER I
    • CHAPTER II
    • CHAPTER III
    • CHAPTER IV
    • CHAPTER V
    • CHAPTER VI
    • CHAPTER VII
    • BOOK II
    • CHAPTER I
    • CHAPTER II
    • CHAPTER III
    • CHAPTER IV
    • CHAPTER V
    • CHAPTER VI
    • CHAPTER VII
    • CHAPTER VIII
    • BOOK III
    • CHAPTER I
    • CHAPTER II
    • CHAPTER III
    • CHAPTER IV
    • CHAPTER V
    • CHAPTER VI
    • CHAPTER VII
    • BOOK IV
    • CHAPTER I
    • CHAPTER II
    • CHAPTER III
    • CHAPTER IV
    • CHAPTER V
      • THE END
      • *** START: FULL LICENSE ***
        • Section 1. General Terms of Use and Redistributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works
        • Section 2. Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tm
        • Section 3. Information about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
        • Section 4. Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
        • Section 5. General Information About Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works.
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