Reviews

Precious Bane, by Mary Webb

rebeccabateman's review against another edition

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4.0

Like the protagonist character, Prue, this small, colorful story is a bit ragged and difficult to understand, but once embraced is a beautiful treasure of simplistic wisdom and truth.

Prudence Sarn ("Prue") shares her perceptive thoughts with child-like innocence and by so doing unveils the foibles of man and the susceptibility of the weak around her. She is as one who "sees through a glass darkly" (Biblical themes are present consistently throughout this book) recounting the events of her life, but leaving the reader to sort out the other character's intentions and motivations.

Ms. Webb masterfully! handles a myriad of elements and motifs, providing deeply complex meaning hidden behind simple themes. Within the symbols of earth, air, fire and water are numerous levels of meaning. (Some examples: sowing, harvesting, fruits, seasons and time, weaving, the white ox (=Prue!), war and battle, birds, dragonflies and caterpillars (and their rebirth/resurrection/spiritual refinement), baptism, death, light/candles/sunlight/full moon.) These motifs are a symbologist's dream!

Precious Bane is definitely worth a second perusal for an in-depth study, but as an inaugural reading the unpretentious story sneaked up on me, charmed and surprised me and left me wondering.






Most beautiful are the insights we receive through Prue's direction. Here are several of my favorite quotes:


Referring to her handling of her harelip appearance~


"I'd liefer [prefer to] stay down-under, like the daffadilly [sic], lest the weather be winterly [sic]. For if she too eagerly comes up, desirous of the sun, she can but stand and shudder in the bitter frost, torn by the fangs of the winds (p.111)."

"...But when you dwell in a house you mislike [sic], you will look out of a window a deal more than those that are content with their dwelling (p. 208)."


Referring to attitudes of life~

"...It is all in the Play. But if we be chosen for a pleasant, merry part, how thankful we ought to be, giving great praise, and helping those less fortunate, and even being grateful to that poor mommet which goeth about night and day to work our destruction. For it might have been the other way (p. 175)."

(While trying to put out a large fire with small buckets) "... I've thought since that when folk grumble about this and that and be not happy, it is not the fault of creation, that is like a vast mere [lake] full of good, but it is the fault of their bucket's smallness (p. 248)."


And I couldn't help comparing her soliloquy with that of one by Stephen King~

"For there are some things so hard to write of that even a great scholar might boggle at it, and I, though I can do the tall and the short script, am not anything of a scholar, and words be hard to find for some things. I think, times, that in our mortal language there are no words for the things that are of most account. So, when those things come upon us we are struck silent, and can but feel and feel, till our hearts are like a bursting dam. Maybe, in the life yonder, that already I begin to glimpse on the edge of this world, we shall find the proper words. But not yet (p. 291)."

compared to

"The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them - words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller, but for want of an understanding ear ([b:Different Seasons|11569|Different Seasons|Stephen King|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1247012607s/11569.jpg|2248680], The Body, p. 289)."



*Note: The edition shown above is not the same copy as my book. I think the edition of my copy was made before ISBNs were invented. Mine is a small, very used, blue copy, printed in England, that I bought for £3.

sarahboudereads's review against another edition

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3.0

Would definitely reread it later in my life because I feel like I can LOVE this one.

andrewryanandherbooks's review against another edition

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2.0

Nope, not for me. My book club chose this book, and it sounded so intriguing, and so while I tried I just can't do it. The dialogue and dialect is painful to read, pulling me out and making things that could be very interesting and intriguing a chore to read and just mad boring.

I'm bummed because it has such a high rating and I read a plot synopsis and some analysis of the book and it sounds like it really is a tale to make one think, but just the way it's delivered really puts what it's saying out of my mind and instead while trying to read it I was easily irritated at the simple dialogue and text. Too much to enjoy or get into what I was reading.

njw13's review against another edition

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challenging dark informative reflective sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

kiwi_fruit's review against another edition

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2.0

This is the story of Prue Sarn, an intelligent and good-hearted young woman, born with a facial disfiguration (cleft lip); because of her condition she is both pitied and feared by her village neighbors (who suspect her of being a witch). She lives on a farm with her frail mother and Gideon, her handsome, strong-willed but hardworking brother. Gideon, who has inherited the farm after the death of their father, is determined to work hard for a better future for himself and his family. He is betrothed to a beautiful young girl, who he intend to marry despite his father-in-law-to-be objections.
This is a story where ambition results in tragedy; romance is mixed with grief, superstition and ghosts. Will Prue find her happiness with her prince charming of a traveling weaver?

I admit that the mix of old English language and Shropshire dialect was a struggle for me, as it forced me to slow down my reading pace, having to read and re-read the sentences to make sense of them.
The story started strong, waned by the middle but the ending was more exciting
Spoiler although it leaned towards the melodramatic culminating in a too predictable fairy tale finale
.
What I liked most were the descriptions of the countryside and nature in the changing seasons, but as I’ve said before I’m not much of a romance girl. If you like drama, romantic tales of doomed lovers, a likeable heroine and lyrical writing, à la Austen or Bronte, you’ll probably like this one more than I did.
2.5 stars

meyshka's review

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lighthearted reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

laurel_e's review against another edition

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5.0

Sad, profound and wonderful.

egaynor's review against another edition

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5.0

A freaking delight of 1800s drama and ineptitude, lovely, resilient and misunderstood woman, enchanted descriptions of farming + nature and a sprinkle of romance. I fell so deep into this world and the language. It’s witchy farmer Cinderella

sigynmoon's review

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5.0

An absolutely beautiful story written in a dreamy, lyrical style. This book evoked such emotions within me, touching my heart so deeply. I smiled, I cried, I seethed for the characters in this book, who are each written with such life in them, whether for good or for bad. There are tender, kind moments just as there are cruel and horrific moments, balanced so perfectly upon the picturesque nature backdrop. Now, I must go and tell everyone close to me to read this book.

jennereads's review against another edition

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4.0

It took me a while to get into this book and especially to get used to the dialect. But what a beautifully tragic book! I love Prue Sarn for being a true hero against all odds. The story itself made me think of Thomas Hardy (and a little of The Scarlet Letter and maybe a bit of The Crucible), although it feels very original. It is definitely worth searching for.