First published in 1908, The Old Wives' Tale affirms the integrity of ordinary lives as it tells the story of the Baines sisters--shy, retiring Constance and defiant, romantic Sophia--over the course of nearly half a century. Bennett traces the sisters' lives from childhood in their father's drapery shop in provincial Bursley, England, during the mid-Victorian era, through their married lives, to the modern industrial age, when they are reunited as old women. The setting moves from the Five Towns of Staffordshire to exotic and cosmopolitan Paris, while the action moves from the subdued domestic routine of the Baines household to the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War.
Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) was one of the most versatile, ambitious and successful British novelists of the early 20th century. His novels and short stories both celebrate and deplore a rapidly changing Britain. Much of his greatest work is set where he grew up, in the Potteries of the West Midlands. Inspired by Zola and Maupassant, he realized that this world of brutal industrial work and rapid social change, religious severity and material temptation, was the perfect backdrop for everything from comedy to tragedy. He died of typhoid.