Saturday, June 16, 2007

Anna of the Five Towns

Anna of the Five Towns is a book written by a man named Arnold Bennett.

Anna Tellwright is a young girl living with her tyrannical father and her little stepsister Agnes. A man called Henry Mynors is love with Anna and Anna has only just realized this when the story begins.

Her father is a shrewd businessman and a miser. He rules his house rigidly. When Anna comes of age, he hands over her inheritance to her, including an earthenware works rented by Titus Price, the superintendent of the Sunday School in the Wesleyan Methodist Society.

She enters a business partnership with Henry Mynors. Her father is well pleased with Henry because Henry has shown himself to be a good business man though he is still young.

Later, Henry's relatives (his aunt and uncle, I think) invited Anna on a trip with them and their daughter and Henry to the Isle of Man. She accepts their invitation. Henry proposes on this trip and Anna is very happy.

At home, Titus Price, already in debt, is going bankrupt and keeps putting off the paying of the rents. Anna's father threatens him often and forces Anna to push him to pay. She, however, is feeling sorry for them and in particular for Titus Price's son William. When William confesses to her that a bill of exchange his father had sent to her was forged, she risks her father's wrath and destroys the bill in the night. Her father is furious when he finds out, and even more so when he finds it had been forged all along. He calls Anna names and forbids her to tell Henry Mynors.
She complies, but now there is a wedge between her and Henry.

Henry treats Anna as though he is just humoring her fancies to help people further increasing the wedge between them.

Finally, the scandal comes out that Titus Price, who has by now hung himself out of despair, had embezzled money from a church building fund. William prepares to leave for Australia. Before he leaves, Anna gives him an envelope with some money. She realizes she has been in love with him all along and that he is in love with her. They part, and she marries Henry Mynors, and that is the end of it.

I disliked this book in part because it does not end happily. I generally dislike those sort of stories because I believe stories ought to end happily just as the great Story will one day end with Christ's return. Of course, that is not happy for those who reject salvation, but it is good nonetheless. And when I mean that a story must end happily, I even mean some stories in which a favorite character dies in the end because even if the main character dies, it can still end happily (ie. Scottish Chiefs, A Tale of Two Cities, etc.). But this story has no hope at the end, just a tiresome existence. And it seems slightly unexpected that she would suddenly find she was in love with William Price, especially after being so happy when Henry Mynors proposed to her.

Another thing I found irksome was the wordiness of this book. Although there are some wonderful word pictures in here, I believe they could have been even better without being so wordy. The author likes to tell the reader about his characters rather than show them. But perhaps this style of writing was customary of the period the author lived in.

Something else that bothered me was a revival described in this book. In Chapter 4, the Wesleyan Methodist Society holds a revival. Anna attends and is convicted. Henry gives her some fairly good advice about how not everyone experiences a sudden conversion and to just lean hard on Jesus. But it is more man-centered in her practice - she is striving to be good. And then the affects of the revival on her seem to be forgotten towards the end of the book, just as though it had never happened. Well, I suppose that is not entirely true. I think it is supposed to be implied that her experience leaves her kinder to struggling people. But it doesn't quite ring true.

And that is at last the end of this review.