CBR 11 Bingo – Listicle
I didn’t know much about this book a long time ago, but it had been on my radar for being on the MLA Top 100 of the 20th Century list. What sold me on reading it eventually was Connie Willis using is a forgotten classic in one of the character quirks for the lead in Bellwether, who checks outs library books to save classics from being remaindered.
I also almost put it right back after reading the not at all charming introduction that describes a 40 year old Bennett meeting an older woman at a cafe and thinking “Hmm, she’s old and fat and gross” but then coming to the conclusion that she might have a rich inner life! And this book being the consequence.
Luckily, the book is much much better than apparently the personality of the writer, like a LOT of books.
This is the story of two sisters in the “Five Towns”, a midlands municipality modeled on Stoke on Trent, an formerly unincorporated ares of six towns. Sophia is worldly and doesn’t want to just take over the shop, while her sister Constance is down. We begin with them as teenagers thinking about their potentialities in the world and possible would-be husbands. Sophia ends up getting swept off her feet by a charmer, while Constance has her eyes on a lovable local goofball. The novel then splits itself into sections dealing with the consequences of those choices for each of them, and a final reconnection at the end.
The novel is pretty charming and funny throughout, and it’s often quite sympathetic and affecting. There’s a lot of parallels to English and American writers of the time (1908) like Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Willa Cather, but I felt that there’s a lot of this novel found in more contemporary historical fiction as well.