WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY SATHNAM SANGHERA
You might find it hard to imagine that those stout ageing spinsters living quietly in small English towns ever led lives of passion or hardship, that they ever possessed beauty or romantic ideals. In The Old Wives' Tale, Arnold Bennett tells the story of two such old wives, sisters Constance and Sophia, from youth, through marriage, heartbreak, triumphs and disasters, to old age. In doing so, he reveals with careful compassion the intense inner lives that throb beneath every seemingly insignificant exterior.
Arnold Bennett was born in Staffordshire on 27 May 1867, the son of a solicitor. Rather than following his father into the law, Bennett moved to London at the age of twenty-one and began a career in writing . His first novel, The Man from the North, was published in 1898 during a spell as editor of a periodical - throughout his life journalism supplemented his writing career. In 1902 Bennett moved to Paris, married, and published some of his best known novels, most of which were set in The Potteries district where he grew up: Anna of the Five Towns (1902), The Old Wives Tale (1908), and the Clayhanger series (1910-1918). These works, as well as several successful plays, established him both in Europe and America as one of the most popular and acclaimed writers of his era. Bennett returned to England in 1912, and during the First World War worked for Lord Beaverbrook in the Ministry of Information. In 1921, separated from his first wife, he fell in love with an actress, Dorothy Cheston, with whom he had a child. He received the James Tait Black Award for his novel Riceyman Steps in 1923. Arnold Bennett died of typhoid in London on 27 March 1931.