Precious Bane, by Mary Webb
Written by
Barbara Morrison
August 2011
Written by
Barbara Morrison
August 2011

I loved this book. It took me forever to read because every time I picked it up, I went back and reread the previous chapters for the pure joy of the prose.

In Precious Bane Prue Sarn tells the story of what happened after the death of her father of apoplexy or stroke following an argument with her brother Gideon. Gideon takes over running the farm, determined to force it to yield the wealth that he believes he requires in order to marry the woman his loves and lead the life he is determined to lead. A good man and a hard worker, he is blind to everything but his goal and pushes Prue and their mother to take on additional work to help reach it. Prue is more than willing. Born with a harelip, which makes some of the villagers mutter that she is a witch, Prue holds fast to Gideon’s promise that he will pay for her disfigurement to be corrected. Only when she is as beautiful as a fairy, Prue believes, will she be able to attract a husband and have a family of her own, like other girls.

First published in 1926, this is a novel about life in a village in the Ellesmere district of Shropshire. It captures the sumptuous beauty of rural life in the pre-industrial past but also the superstition, brutality and terror, thus providing a realistic picture of what is often sentimentalised as Merrie England.

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