The Price of Love by Arnold Bennett

Arnold Bennett
After reading The Card, I assumed/hoped that this would be a similar story. It was, in that it was set in the Five Towns. Other than that, there was not much similarity. This was a much more serious work. There seems to be conflicting elements to the story as if the author and the editor went a few rounds over the ending. While, this thought of a battle over the end is purely supposition, I suspect that it occurred and that the editor won.

This story is about a young lady named Rachel Fleckring, a house maid to a moderately wealthy and somewhat eccentric old woman. As the story opens as a local businessman deposits almost 1000 pounds at their house overnight. Shortly thereafter, the two nephews come for a birthday party. One nephew is brutish, but has strong moral character (i.e. quite trustworthy). The other, Louis Fores, is charming while lacking in the moral fortitude department. The scene is set and that night the money vanishes from the house.

This story studies many aspects of love and relationships through the microcosm of these few characters and the theft of the money: the elderly and upstanding Mrs. Maldon, the unscrupulous businessman Thomas Batchgrew, the brutish nephew Julian Maldon, the nephew Louis Fores, and the star Rachel Fleckring. Throughout the story, Bennett opens the readers eyes to the many aspects in which a person can be both wise and foolish in their interactions. We’ll look at that more in a minute.

The story does not have a strong drive towards a climax. In many ways it meanders along seemingly without direction. The key to the story is to study the relationships between the characters instead of seeing it as a mystery novel. There are a few twists, but overall this isn’t a “mystery” story.

I found this a difficult read as it reminded me of the foolishness of some couples I have known. Sometimes one cannot quite get their head wrapped around the seemingly foolish decisions that people make. Why do people turn off their brains when it comes to love? Why do people ignore the sage advice of their elders and become attracted to foolish spouses? I think that teenagers should read this book before they begin dating.

Mrs. Maldon tries to warn Rachel of the flaws in Fores, but cannot bring herself to do so as Fores is family. Rachel, an eminently practical young woman, refuses to listen to any opinions that speak against the character of Fores. She even ignores her own practical nature because Fores makes her feel “wonderful.” Batchgrew is not a model citizen but cares for Rachel and would have helped her if she had listened.

And so the relationships shift and change continuously with Rachel justifying her love of the foolish Fores. Even when Fores treats her poorly, she clings to him as if he was a life preserver and she a drowning soul.

Why? Who knows, but Rachel learns the price of her love.

You can get the audio book here and the text here.

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