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Summary

It is 1919 shortly after the termination of the 1st European holocaust. Henry Earlforward, a middle aged North London Bookseller, courts and marries Violet Arb, a widow who has inherited the confectioners shop opposite his own premises in Riceyman Square. Henry and Violet engage the services of Elsie as ‘charwoman’. The marriage outwardly appears to be successful, although Henry has also inherited and is not an esteemed native of the district and Violet likewise - having been a nomadic traveller due to the demands of her late husband’s employment, and her entrenched belief in class differences. But Henry has a monstrous passion which transcends his love for Violet, his resolute determination for thrift. This flaw will ultimately destroy him and his wife and has resounding implications for those within his immediate circle. Elsie, also a widow, stolidly maintains her love for Joe, a mental casualty of the recent conflict, despite his inability to surmount his personal torment.

This novel established Bennett firmly on a pinnacle of literary achievement with a foothold in both the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a brilliant, clinical dissection of a troubled marriage, in troubled times and, at its centre, an irritating scratch that ‘will out’.

©2011 Assembled Stories (P)2007 Assembled Stories

Critic reviews

About Assembled Stories: Over the years the national press have reviewed Assembled Stories titles as "excellent", "remarkable", "entrancing", "superb", "magic for sure", "masterly", "wonderful", "a class act" and "a splendid example of audio at its best".

"Peter Joyce is the most remarkable one-man band in audiobook publishing. Joyce, an experienced actor, reads them all himself." ( The Independent)
"I was entranced by Arnold Bennett's subtle 1919 study of marital checks and balances in Riceyman Steps." ( The Times)

What listeners say about Riceyman Steps

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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A gem

The reader is fantastic. A joy to hear him interpret the characters. The story is slow, but reveals a beautifully written portrait of a marriage and the couple’s inter relationships with the other characters.

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A storm in a tea cup

It’s a simple plot, simple book, written greatly!
It was captivating even though the plot didn’t thicken. There was no page turners. No surprises. Just delicate prose and story taking. This book takes you back to yesteryear. And despite its age, the characters are relatable nowadays

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Classic

A great novel showing the down fall of two people
Narrator is fabulous
A story of obsessive compulsive disorder which in the end leads to tragedy