Friday, July 10, 2009

Bennett again

Following my eulogistic post on Arnold Bennett a while back I should probably say that I'm halfway through Hilda Lessways, the second novel in the Clayhanger trilogy, and it's, er, fairly rubbish. Is it that Bennett can't write from a woman's perspective? Possibly. But I also notice that while Clayhanger looked at the world from an architectural and public perspective, Hilda Lessways focuses on personal (usually abstract) emotions and domestic matters.

Maybe this is a deliberate strategy, the marrying of form to content. But Bennett's strength is his settings, the depiction of the social world. Focusing on Hilda's (fairly submissive) inner life is not only disenfranchising and dull, it also removes the main beauty of his novels, the relations of his characters, not with each other, but with the wider world.

I'm aware that this short post misses lots of critical nuance; and it's not so bad a novel as I have implied. But the more I think about it the more complex a subject this becomes, and I haven't the time to think about it properly. Heigh ho. You'll have to read the books and, as Kierkegaard recommends, Judge For Yourselves!


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