When novelist Arnold Bennett died, aged only 63, in 1931, his memorial service was attended by all the leading politicians, men of literature, journalists and actors of the day. He was an outstandingly successful writer in his day, and yet it is now hard to find his works in a library or bookshop.
Literature has its fashions, as well as other things, but I find it sad that his books have faded from view. Most of his books are set in the Potteries, a region of small towns where ceramics and china were made – today the city of Stoke-on-Trent. I recently re-read his 1908 novel The Old Wives’ Tale, usually considered his greatest book. I also read for the first time Anna of the Five Towns and loved that. His depiction of a miser in that novel is masterly. As a teenager, I watched the 26-part TV serial Clayhanger which covered his novels Clayhanger, Hilda Lessways and These Twain, and also read the books, but it might be a time for a re-read, and a re-watch if I can find the series anywhere.
Once when he was in a bookshop Arnold Bennett bought a book about misers for sixpence. The book and the shop inspired his fabulous novel Riceyman Steps about the miserly owner of a bookshop. I think this had better be my next audio book purchase – it’s time for a re-read.
He wrote over 30 novels, plus plays and short stories. He was so famous that an omelette was named in his honour, and he really deserves to be more prominent today than he is. So why not take an Arnold Bennett journey and discover an atmospheric, perceptive and entertaining writer? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.