Precious Bane

<MILD SPOILER ALERT>

I’ve now read Precious Bane, and as I mentioned before, I’m shocked to find that I loved it. It’s not what I generally think of as my cup of tea. I like historical novels as much as the next guy, if not more, but I tend to prefer them less rustic and more ironic and subversive. At the very least I like a sea battle or two. Subjects like, oh, illiterate farmers destroyed by singleminded obsessive ambition, and their harelipped sisters finding love through adversity, tend not to interest me so much.

Obviously what makes PB so riveting is the writing. I have no idea whether Mary Webb got early-19th-century Shropshire dialect right, but it hardly matters, it’s completely convincing to early-21st-century me. PB sucks you in linguistically the way some of Anthony Burgess‘s books (A Clockwork Orange, A Dead Man in Deptford) do. [Good Lord, I just compared Mrs Webb to Anthony Burgess, and Precious Bane to A Clockwork Orange; have I lost my senses?]

Atmosphere is more than dialect, of course, and there’s much else right in PB‘s atmosphere. I particularly liked the almost-medieval worldview of the Shropshire yeomen, steeped equally in the Bible and in old country superstition.

Yes, I can see how the whole thing cries out for parody, but really, the best subjects for parody are often great in themselves.

Addendum number one: the BBC made a movie of Precious Bane starring what must be a very well cast young Clive Owen and Janet McTeer; unfortunately, despite having been shown on Masterpiece Theatre it seems not to be available here.

Addendum number two: I ran the text of PB through a spell-checker; the results (unfiltered for proper names, mild variant spellings, and the like, and with no thought given to contractions and the occasional funky diacritic) are here.

Advertisements

Tags: ,

One Response to “Precious Bane”

  1. Hecubot Says:

    The BBC has still failed to put Precious Bane out on DVD, but you can see it (for the time being) on YouTube.

    Janet McTeer is amazing. Clive plays her bastard brother, Gideon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: