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Summary

Bennett described his story as an 'idyllic diversion'.

Helen Rathbone meets her elderly uncle, James Ollerenshaw, in Bursley Park, after an estrangement of several years. Both are very strong-willed, independent characters. Helen has an extravagant lifestyle and likes to spend money while the old man has lived a thrifty life and intends to continue in the same way. However, they develop a friendship which progresses rapidly, and Helen moves in to James' house to look after him.

A battle of wills begins in earnest. Both use all the cunning and emotional blackmail they can muster to get their own ways, and both experience a transformation as romance comes knocking at the door.

A wonderfully humorous and observant study of human nature and life in the Potteries at the turn of the century.

Public Domain (P)2015 Assembled Stories

What listeners say about Helen with the High Hand

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A delicious novel, delightfully narrated.

This has always been my favourite 'Five Towns' novel, and Peter Newcombe Joyce realises it beautifully, bringing out all the gems of wit, irony and verbal swordplay between the protagonists. He is impressively versatile in his voicing of the characters, switching apparently effortlessly between James ('grumpy old man' with a broad Midlands accent) and Helen (haughty young woman, very much RP), plus a host of other characters. Bennett gave this novel the subtitle, 'An Idyllic Diversion', and that feels spot on - it's wonderful for a bit of escapism when real life feels too dark.

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So Pleased for the Experience

There’s a welcome and delighting straightforwardness in this Arnold Bennett ‘pocket book’ of ‘Helen with the High Hand’, that is immediately disarming and remains so to its conclusion. Bennett has an easy facility with words and comic dialogue that he shares with J B Priestley seen to best effect in their comic writing. Bennett captures the unvarnished ways of the Five Towns, and their civil politeness. Both main characters are wonderfully created. I read HwtHH having been loaned a copy, but was so pleased with it I ordered a copy to give as a gift. If anyone needs a lift in spirits and proof that writing can make you regularly break out in pleasure, this is the thing to do it. In the audiobook I felt that the performance of the narrative flow was fine, though I was not so sure about the authenticity of the accents, and also the tone deployed for Helen Rathbone.

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Superb

Beautifully written in true Arnold Bennett style. The characters are brilliantly depicted and come alive as you listen.