Wednesday 5 April 2017

Book Review: Anna of the Five Towns
This is a very strange story, by modern standards. Of course, it was first published in 1902, so I should not be using modern standards, but I can't help myself. Anna is the daughter of a miser, living in a small town in England. They live extremely frugally while her father signs and accepts bank notes and interest on her behalf. Anna and her little sister Agnes attend a Wesleyan Sunday School where Anna teaches.

There seems to be some hope of escape for Anna. Firstly, in her coming of age. At twenty-one, she inherits a great deal of money. Rather than taking the money to at least buy some new clothes, Anna turns over her cheque book to her father and continues on as if nothing has changed. Except now her father wants her to chase down her creditors. The other form of hope comes in the person of Henry Mynors. Henry is kind and gentle and seems to admire Anna, for unknown reasons. I thought at one point he was just after her money, but this only seemed to be a bonus for him.

Anna is also embraced by the Sutton family after attending a revival meeting and coming away with mixed feelings. They are everything warm and generous, though they tend to spoil their daughter, Beatrice. Mrs. Sutton is especially lovely and the family invite her and Henry to join them on vacation on the Isle of Man. Here, I began to imagine Jane Fairfax on holiday with the Campbell's in Jane Austen's Emma, but it was nothing so light and fun. Instead, Anna is pensive and worried and Beatrice grows seriously ill.

I liked the book, but the ending was a disappointment. If Bennett wrote the book to be a suspenseful mystery, then his ending was a success. I never saw it coming. However, this did not seem to be written as a mystery and so the ending left me unhinged. What in the world was he trying to say? May have to dig into that one!  

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