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Tales of the Five Towns

Arnold Bennett

Book Overview: 

This is a selection of short stories recounting, with gentle satire and tolerant good humour, the small town provincial life at the end of the nineteenth century, based around the six towns in the county of Staffordshire, England, known as the Potteries. Arnold Bennett chose to fictionalize these towns by changing their names and omitting one (Fenton) as he apparently felt that “Five Towns” was more euphonious than “Six Towns”. The real town names which are thinly disguised in the novel are: Hanley, Longton, Burslem and Tunstal, the fifth, Stoke became “Knype”.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Eight months afterwards he was ill again. Beechinor went to bed for the last time, cursing Providence, Wilbraham v. Wilbraham, and Rio.

Mark Beechinor was thirty, just nineteen years younger than his brother. Tall, uncouth, big-boned, he had a rather ferocious and forbidding aspect; yet all women seemed to like him, despite the fact that he seldom could open his mouth to them. There must have been 061 something in his wild and liquid dark eyes which mutely appealed for their protective sympathy, something about him of shy and wistful romance that atoned for the huge awkwardness of this taciturn elephant. Mark was at present the manager of a small china manufactory at Longshaw, the farthest of the Five Towns in Staffordshire, and five miles from Bursley. He was an exceptionally clever potter, but he never made money. He had the dreamy temperament of the inventor. He was a man of ideas, the kind of man who is capable of forgetting that he has not had his dinner, an. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Could he be a cynical, sometimes morose O. Henry? I must admit that a few of the stories didn't make sense to me - like a few Far Side or New Yorker cartoons - but the wit, humor, irony, and clever plot was always good.

My favorite book thus far by Bennett remains The Card.

What a find Arnold Bennett is! This book of short stories is humorous, poignant, gripping, and occasionally tragic. Bennett writes with charm and good humor, but his observations about human behavior and foibles are astute (and trenchant). He also casts a benevolent and understanding eye on all h...more

Bennett, Arnold. Tales of the Five Towns

Arnold Bennett is a great teller of tales about the Five Towns. He manages to create reader interest in ordinary people going abour their everyday lives. Of course there is usually something weird about the central character or characters, such as not spea...more

This is a series of short stories set in the Staffordshire Potteries towns, peopled by a rich cast of businessmen, shopkeepers, mill and pottery owners and fading gentility.
Arnold Bennett was a very popular author in his day and these stories show why.

As I know the area well, the tales are of special interest and I have thoroughly enjoyed deciphering the place names such as Knype (Stoke), Oldcastle (Newcastle-under-Lyme) etc. The tales seem to delight in human nature, and often have a resonance in modern times.

Lovely tales from the author of Clayhanger.