The Pretty Lady edited by John Shapcott
There is no finer novel of civilian life during The Great War than Arnold Bennett’s The Pretty Lady. Written during the conflict itself, it has the narrative thrust of great storytelling together with the sensationalism of popular journalism.
The book became a bestseller in 1918, despite calls for it to be banned for undermining public morality with its daring portrayal of a French prostitute operating at the heart of the establishment. More disturbing to the modern reader than the sexual revelations are Bennett’s account of bombing raids over London and the threats of mutilation faced but female munitions workers in Glasgow.
The Introduction makes the case for the novel as a masterpiece of symbolic realism, unlock hidden social, political and psychological realities. From the shady sexual exchanges of the music-hall to the hypocrisies of high-society, Bennett exposes the hidden civilian truths behind the line of battle.
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