Thursday, 14 August 2008

Precious Bane

To conjure even for a moment, the wistfulness which is the past is like trying to gather in one's arms the hyacinthine colour of the distance.

So begins Mary Webb's 1924 novel, Precious Bane. The inventive and beautiful description of the distance as 'hyacinthine' made me immediately want to read this novel which is set in a rural community in Shropshire at the time of Waterloo. Prue Sarn lives with her ill-tempered father, ambitious brother and down-trodden mother who retains a 'married-all-oer' look'. Afflicted with a harelip, Prue knows she will never marry and is forced to spend her days working for her mercenary brother. Despite her gentle nature Prue is the subject of speculation that she must be a witch because of her appearance, but her natural intelligence asserts itself and she finds love, too. Precious Bane is a highly original novel and Mary Webb perfectly captures the vernacular.

But I tell ye not every troth ends in church, not every ring holds wedlock, not every bride-groom takes his vargin, and I dunna like the match!

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