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The Pretty Lady

Arnold Bennett

Book Overview: 

The Pretty Lady’ is considered to be one of Bennett's most revealing and under-rated works. It is the story of a French prostitute, Christine, who has escaped from wartime Ostend, and set herself up in business in London. Though a refugee, she demands no pity; she is self-sufficient, practical and realistic. Christine is not a harpy preying on innocent soldiers, but a canny businesswoman, doing the best she can with the opportunities life has given her. Her main relationship is with G.J. Hoape, a wealthy man above the military age. Bennett in this novel presents a disturbing image of wartime society, fragmented, uneasy and divided. There are references to industrial unrest and to social injustices, and hints that the British press is less than frank about the war.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .I sent the tickets back to the Dean and changed my clothes. Great-grandfathers have to be philosophers. I say, Hoape, they tell me you play uncommonly good auction bridge."

"I play," said G.J. modestly. "But no better than I ought."

"You might care to make a fourth this afternoon, in the card-room."

"I should have been delighted to, but I've got one of these war-committees at six o'clock." Again he spoke with careful unconcern, masking a considerable self-satisfaction.

[54] Chapter 10 THE MISSION

The great dim place was full, but crowding had not been permitted. With a few exceptions in the outlying parts, everybody had a seat. G.J. was favourably placed for seeing the whole length of the interior. Accustomed to the restaurants of fashionable hotels, auction-rooms, theatrical first-nights, the haunts of sport, clubs, and courts of justice, he soon perceived, from the numerous samples which he himself was able to iden. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Fascinating portrayal of London life during WW1 and I think a good insight based on Bennett's life experiences with courtesans and running the French propaganda unit for the British government. He is scathing about the vanity and hypocrisy of the upper classes and their war effort with acerbic li...more

A French courtesan in England is the protagonist but a wealthy 50-ish man Hoape is the more interesting character, through introspection, trauma, and the war. A host of characters parade through the novel, some briefly and others linger, all to serve as a way for Hoape to understand human nature...more

I must admit I loved this book. But I wonder why? Perhaps because it seems so sly to me. It starts off firmly in the nineteenth century as the story of a courtesan, taken from her point of view. Well, no wonder. Bennett lived in Paris and stories of courtesans were de rigeur. But then it becomes...more

A really beautiful novel and strangely ignored in comparison to Bennett's other works!

Smug, smart satire about well-off British civilians during WWI.

G. J. Hoape is fifty, rich and well-connected. He begins an affair with a superior French cocotte named Christine Dubois, stranded in London during the hostilities.

At the same time he consorts with two fascinating but infuriating soc...more