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Arnold Bennett

The Old Wives' Tale

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The Old Wives' Tale is a novel by Arnold Bennett, first published in 1908. It deals with the lives of two very different sisters, Constance and Sophia Baines, following their stories from their youth, working in their mother's draper's shop, into old age. It is regarded as one of Bennett's finest works. The story covers a period of about 70 years from roughly 1840 to 1905, and is set in Burslem and Paris. The book is broken up into four parts, Mrs Baines, Constance, Sophia and What Life Is. The first section, "Mrs Baines" details the adolescence of both Sophia and Constance, and their life in their father's shop and house. The father is ill and bedridden, and the main adult in their life is Mrs Baines, their mother. Sophia eventually elopes with a travelling salesman, and Constance marries Mr Povey, who works in the shop.
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