, October 21, 2014
(view all comments by lukas)
Originally, I thought this long Edwardian novel was going to be a drag and though 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.