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!
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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