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Precious bane by Mary Gladys Meredith Webb

Precious bane (original 1924; edition 1980)

by Mary Gladys Meredith Webb

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6812314,027 (4.09)95
Title:Precious bane
Authors:Mary Gladys Meredith Webb
Info:Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1980.
Collections:Your library

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Precious Bane by Mary Webb (1924)


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» See also 95 mentions

English (21)  French (2)  All (23)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
This is one of my very favorite books but I hadn't read it in ages. It is just magical. Webb has such a beautiful style and the way she writes about nature and the spiritual is truly awe-inspiring. Just so happy-making. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Jan 8, 2017 |
I really loved this book. Beautifully written, old fashioned, romantic and uplifting.

In a day when pale, short and plump was the ideal of feminine beauty, the narrator Prudence Sarn is tall, lean and dark. Her face is disfigured by a harelip, and the thoughtless neighbors suspect her of being a witch. She has a great desire for knowledge, and a neighbor teaches her to read and write. Unfortunately, the neighbor himself has a bad reputation - he is considered a wizard, and makes up potions for the superstitious.

After her father dies, Prue's brother Gideon takes over management of their farm. He is ambitious to make a lot of money so that he can buy a house in the town. He is not romantic, but as well as he can, he loves the wizard's daughter Jancis. Ah, Jancis is the ideal of feminine beauty. Still, the money comes first. He drives himself hard to earn that money and drives Prue as well.

Prue reveals her inner beauty in the things she observes and writes throughout the book.

A few quotes, for flavor:
Chiding herself for jealousy, Prue says, "That was wicked of me, for poor Jancis could not help being pretty."
Of the weaver whom she has just met at a neighbor's house, Prue writes, "It was more to me that he should like Gideon and mother than that I should master the reading of Revelations."
Disagreeing with her brother about the sport of bull-baiting, Prue says to him, "I couldna see that it was soft not to like to see a cruel deed."
When fire strikes their harvest, Prue organizes the water buckets, later writing of it, "it seemed a pitiful thing that with all that great mere full of water we could only slake our fire with as much as we could get into our little buckets.

I admit that it is a bit slow reading - for a day where things did not move as fast as they do these days. I will read it again. ( )
  CarolJMO | Dec 12, 2016 |
One of my new favorites among classics. I hadn't heard of this book until my mother read it and recommended it to me. At first I had difficulty with the old language but after awhile it got easier. An inspiring love story, with lush, vivid descriptions of nature, remarkable spiritual insights and compelling characterizations. Highly recommend this one. ( )
  homeschoolmimzi | Nov 28, 2016 |
Being the devoted reader of British classics I am, how I've managed to miss this little gem of a book for so long I honestly don't know. But beware, my dear reader, this is not Jane Austen. This is a harsh tale, in the style of Thomas Hardy or even George Eliot, you'll see the characters you so much come to care for struggle in an unfair and prejudiced world, and you'll suffer along with them.

Prudence Sarn is a country girl who lives with her simple mother and her older brother, Gideon, "Maister of the place". Prue is gentle, goodhearted and has a fine figure along with a sharp brain. But she also has a harelip, meaning her whole existence is blighted, as it's impossible that anyone would marry a girl with a curse like that. In spite of her bleak future, she makes light of her woes and from very early on, she develops a special relationship with everything alive, her senses being aligned n harmony with the wild natural world; animals, trees and even the wind are her most beloved companions.
Gideon, in contrast with good natured Prue, is as ambitious and severe as he is handsome. He works hard (and slaves Prue to do the same for him) to be wealthy and prosperous and his pride prevents him from marrying the girl he loves, fair Jancis, because he wants to be well-off before he gives himself that pleasure, not caring if others suffer because of his material whims.
But Prue's peace of mind crumbles down when she meets the new weaver, Kester Woodseaves, whom she starts to worship in secret not believing herself worthy of him. It's up to this Prince Charming to perceive the real beauty of Pruedence Sarn and free her from gossip and hateful stares.

"This was the reason for the hating looks, the turnings aside, the whispers. I was a the witch of Sarn. I was the woman cursed of God with a hare-shotten lip. I was the woman who had friended Beguildy, that wicked old man, the devil's oddman, and like holds to like. And now, almost the worst crime of all, I stood alone".

What mainly got me about this novel is Webb's capacity to transmit such a crude story in which guilt, hatred and prejudice get the worst of its characters, as if it was an innocent and sweet fable. And in that sense, the brutality of the morals which are trying to be taught become more evident and disturbing. Also the evident contrast between brother and sister, between evil and goodness: Prue's silent acceptance and her brother's endless thirst to yield power; her ability to be at ease with herself in spite of her faults versus Gideon's incapacity to accept his position in the world; her humble ways, his capricious goals. As if opposed poles inevitably attracted to each other. Yin and yang. Dark and light. Life and death. One can't exist without the other.

"Why, it was only that I was your angel for a day," I said at long last. "A poor daggly angel, too".

What also had me bothered for some time is the subtle way in which Mary Webb implies that no one is naturally evil , what the characters (and ultimately what WE) become is the uncontrollable combination of fate, desire and chance altogether with their skill in taking the right decision at the right moment. This way to view life as a running river whose course we don't have the power to change produced a kind of claustrophobic feeling of impotence, with this constant foreboding, lurking behind my consciousness, that something gruesome was going to happen and that no one would be able to stop it, and I'd sink along with all the characters.

"There are misfortunes that make you spring up and rush to save yourself, but there are others that are too bad for this, for they leave nought to do."

So, imagine my joy, when out of the blue, some shinning and pure light came through and gave me hope and a new understanding, teaching me a valuable lesson: never stop believing in the magic of life, because the moment you stop believing, you will start fading away only to become an invisible spot of dust in this infinite nothingness which some call existence. ( )
1 vote Luli81 | Mar 25, 2013 |
Incredibly difficult old English dialect to read but worth persevering. This is a beautiful story. ( )
  wbwilburn5 | Jun 9, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mary Webbprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baldwin, StanleyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guéritte, Madeleine T.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hilder, RowlandIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sarn (1968IMDb)
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To my dear H.B.L.W.
First words
To conjure, even for a moment, the wistfulness which is in the past is like trying to gather in one's arms the hyacinthine colour of the distance.
It was at a love-spinning that I saw Kester first.
THE TRAVELLERS' LIBRARY A series of books ... designed for the pocket ... Though the volumes measure only 7 inches by 4 3/4 inches, the page is arranged so that the margins are not unreasonably curtailed nor legibility sacrificed. The books are of a uniform thickness irrespective of the number of pages, and the paper, specially manufactured for the series, is remarkably opaque, even when it is thinnest.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Some copies of this work may be incorrectly attributed to Stanley Baldwin, as he wrote an introduction to one edition.
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Wikipedia in English


Book description
This classic novel -- a lyrical blending of human passion with a powerful and poetic vision of nature -- has been compared by critics, since its publication in 1924, the great novels of the Bronte sisters and Thomas Hardy. Like Jane Eyre, like Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the heroine of Previous Bane is a strong woman whose determined striving for a fuller life breaks the bonds of her confining world. Born in the wild hill country of Shropshire, Prue Sarn is cursed with a harelip. Her "precious bane" sets her apart -- from the possibility of marriage and from the superstitious villagers, who regard her as "queer, outlandish," "a witch," particularly once she learns to read and write. Resigned to a life of endless labor on her ambitious brother's farm, Prue loves two things -- the remote countryside of her birth, and, first hopelessly, then with answering passion, the weaver Kester Woodseaves.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0860680630, Paperback)

Born at the time of Waterloo in the wild country of Shropshire, Prudence Sarn is a wild, passionate girl, cursed with a hare lip—her "precious bane." She is cursed for it, too, by the superstitious people amongst whom she lives. Prue loves two things: the remote countryside of her birth and, hopelessly, Kester Woodseaves, the weaver. The tale of how Woodseaves gradually discerns Prue's true beauty is set against the tragic drama of Prue's brother, Gideon, a driven man who is out of harmony with the natural world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:25 -0400)

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