Thu, 05 Sep 2013
Precious Bane

Precious Bane is a novel by Mary Webb, published in 1924.

I was first aware of Precious Bane when I listened to a BBC Radio 4 adaptation of it a few years ago. It was such a beautiful story and so well performed that I've never forgotten it. I would love to have a copy of the audio now.

One of the things I liked about the play was the accents used: proper Shropshire accent and dialect. Not all words were immediately understandable, and the use of "Ahh" for "yes" was pronounced. The book also uses dialect and, for me, this adds a lot to it's charm.

I've now read it and understand why it's so well loved, at least by those that know of it. Set around the time of the Napoleonic wars in Shropshire, the book tells the story of Prue Sarn and her brother Gideon, their family and neighbours. Prue's been born hare-shotten, that is, she has a "hare lip". This means that some people see her as cursed and she's often reminded that she'll find no marriage partner or true love. In spite of this, she's an intelligent and beautiful person and her relationships are very well drawn and natural. As is the darker side of human nature on occasion.

The story shows how the pursuit of money corrupts and destroys (the bane of the title) and also how true beauty is much more than skin deep.

It's a very affecting and moving book.