Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett
In Anna of the Five Towns (1902) Arnold Bennett depicts the severe economic and moral pressures of life in the Potteries in the late nineteenth century, as they affect the emotional fortunes of his heroine. When Anna Tellwright comes of age, she learns from her miserly father that she is rich, and discovers for herself that she is loved by two men: popular, charismatic, and successful Henry Mynors, and awkward Willie Price. The novel presents her resistance to her father against the background of pottery manufacture and the repressive regime of Methodism. This was the first of Bennett's novels to mark out the province of the Five Towns where much of his later fiction is set. Drawing on his boyhood experience of the Staffordshire Potteries area, he shows both the vitality and the harshness of life in the community. Yet although the events of the novel - including suicide and embezzlement - are sensational, the narrative is restrained and compelling in its delineation of Anna's attempts to gain freedom and independence. This book is intended for undergraduate students of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century British fiction; particularly courses dealing with the lot of women, industrialism, or realism.