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Arnold Bennett: These Twain

The final book of the trilogy is, without a doubt, the least interesting. The build-up to the marriage and the twists and turns of how they got there made the first two books interesting. Moreover, Hilda as a lover is more interesting than Hilda as a wife (but then lovers are always more interesting than spouses, aren’t they?) Even the minor characters seem to be less interesting. Young George is just a boy growing up. Auntie Hamps gets ill and dies. Maggie becomes a somewhat grumpy spinster. Housemaids come and go. The Orgreaves fade into the background. George Cannon does put in a couple of cursory appearances but they are brief and not particularly exciting. Even the one new main character – the factory inspector Tertius Ingpen – is rather dull, even when he is nearly killed and he is found to have a secret lover.

This book is about the marriage of Hilda and Edwin. Good marriages are boring. Bad marriages can be interesting. This can best be described as a middling marriage. Edwin is impatient with his wife for her unconventional ways and her habit of doing things without telling him while Hilda is impatient with her husband for being too conventional and predictable. And that’s about it. Hilda sort of follows George Cannon who turns out to be in Dartmoor but is released and then, with Edwin’s help, goes off to America. Auntie Hamps dies. (Did she leave a will? Do we care?) Edwin and Hilda may or may not buy another house. Edwin may or may not build a new printing works. In short, there are a few struggles, a few problems but, yes, they all live happily ever after.

Publising history

First published 1916 by Methuen