Monday, July 5, 2010

Tuesdays Tomes: The Card by Arnold Bennett, a free vintage book

This comic novel of 1911, subtitled A Story of Adventure in the Five Towns, is a humorous, light, rather silly book that I thoroughly enjoyed. We follow the adventures of young Denry Machin-from the first time he’s acknowledged a “card”(someone to keep an eye on, who does the unexpected, who will be talked of) by the town through his rising success, broken engagement, new house, and more.

I got delightfully lost in the English Five Towns of Bennett’s imagination (Bursley, Turnhill, Hanbridge, Knype, and Longshaw-towns corresponding to the real towns of Stokes-on-Trent of Burslem, Tunstall, Hanley, Stoke, and Longton-the area called The Potteries. The pottery/china manufacturers from this area are the most famous in England, including Royal Doulton, Spode, Wedgwood and Minton).

A favorite passage: Denry’s mother earned her living as a seamstress “…making up ‘ladies own materials’ in ladies own houses. Mrs. Machin, however, had a specialty apart from her vocation:…she could wash lace without ruining it; thus often she came to sew and stayed to wash.”

Denry’s relationship with his widowed mother is delightful. When Mrs. Machin gets the flu but refuses to go to call the doctor or go to bed, Denry pretends that he is ill…his mother calls the doctor who immediately puts her to bed for a week!

Adding to the pleasure of this book- each chapter is an adventure and divided into segments…in other words, the actual chapters are long. If you’ve listened to a book from librivox then you’ll know that at the beginning of each chapter, the reader first identifies the book and states that it is from librivox before getting on with reading the story. I don’t know why they do this…I’ve learned to simply ignore it…but it is nice when the chapters are long and the story flows without interruption. I guess it’s the librivox equivalent of commercials, as the old saying goes: “there’s no free lunch.”

The Card is delightfully read by Andy Minter-his English accent is just perfect for this very British tale.

You can download this free audiobook here or download the free e-book in pdf. or Kindle format here.

Denry Machin didn't go into the Potteries because he got a scholarship to the Endowed School (really the first of his adventures!) but fortunately for us, Clarice Cliff did and here are some examples of this renowed artist's work.

Here's a plate with one of her famous houses and you can see in the photo the marking from the back-after the success of her first line of hand painted ceramics, all her work was called Bizarre.

Here's an early original Bizarre pitcher....
A teapot in the wonderful Crocus pattern...
Two more examples of the vibrant colors associated with Clarice Cliff.
None of these are mine...I wish! I first saw and heard about Clarice Cliff pottery on the BBC auction show "Flog It!" For more information about her and her pottery, visit the Clarice Cliff Collectors Club.

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Rosalyn Manesse said...

Well, I love the pottery! One of my weaknesses is pottery, I guess

jan said...

It sounds like a fun read - thanks for the review! I love that crocus teapot!

Heather said...

HI Miri,
I did go to LibriVox and download the Hansom cab book. It took a bit of fiddling to get it on my ipod (operator error I'm sure). I did enjoy it. Thanks for the suggestion.