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Riceyman Steps (1923)Read about another book on the list.
by Arnold Bennett
Marriage, George Eliot wrote in "Middlemarch," is a state of awesome "nearness." Arnold Bennett's greatest novel is a terrifying and exhilarating story of the nearness that joins the miserly London bookseller Henry Earlforward to his wife, Violet, as they shut themselves off from a threatening outside world -- and also shut themselves off from their uncontrollable inner passions. The only person who intrudes on their solitude is their servant, Elsie, who has very different ideas about her relation to her shell-shocked lover, Joe, and to the world around her. Bennett is best known as the quiet realist of "The Old Wives' Tale," but "Riceyman Steps" probes the unsettling psychological and symbolic depths of a marriage that becomes too close. "Astounding Story of Love and Death," shouts a newspaper headline in the last chapter. This partly describes Bennett's novel, although Elsie and Joe counter it with an equally astounding story of love and life.