‘Precious Bane’ by Mary Webb

– Some of the ideas in Precious Bane were absolutely lovely – for example, ‘We are so small and helpless on the earth that is like a green rush cradle where mankind lies, looking up at the stars, but not knowing what they be’, and when speaking about nicknames: ‘You can make most names into little love-names, like you can cut down a cloak or a gown for children’s wearing. But Gideon you can do naught with. And the name was like the man.’
– I love the way in which Webb uses senses. I feel that they make her settings and scenes incredibly vivid.
– I liked the fact that it was written in an odd dialect, and I found it quite easy to get into after a while. I’m glad that Prue’s accent wasn’t overdone, as it so easily could have been, but the dialogue did feel as though its dialect had been overemphasised, which was a shame.
– The personification of various objects which are of importance to Prue and her family – or, indeed, the larger community in which they live – works incredibly well, and is a nice touch – for example, ‘Every flint had its own voice’.
– I found the impact which other people applied to Prue’s harelip quite sad. Her brother talks of buying her a ‘cure’ for it, and others tease her for never being able to marry. Then there is an awful scene in the pub. This is set in the 19th century, and it was clearly still a very vain society, where much emphasis was placed upon looks and conformity. In that sense, it doesn’t feel as though much has changed in our world.
– The emotions are captured well.
– I found Prue’s childish musings utterly adorable, and felt that they contrasted quite well with her care of and love for her mother. For want of a better word, she was a very motherly figure, despite her young age.
– An odd, sad book, interspersed with human cruelties of every kind.
– It does not feel that well balanced on the whole. It is a quiet book, and the sudden ending which springs from nowhere almost feels too powerful a contrast.


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