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We follow the story of the sisters' two-penny lives. They live in a small English provincial town above their father's draper's shop. We see them when they were small girls, grow up to be young women: Constance marrying a local guy (and later inheriting her father's business), while the more spirited Sophia steals money from her aunt and elopes with a playboy traveling businessman to Paris.
She remains childless, abandoned by her husband, but by stroke of luck was able to put up a business and prospered. Constance, on the other hand, stays in their town, has a son, sees her loved ones grow old and die one by one (her parents, friends, her husband). Her son leaves to seek his fortune elsewhere.
In old age the sisters are briefly reunited. They share problems with house helps, their dogs, and Constance's son's apparent neglect of her. Then they, too, die one by one.
This is a masterpiece of realistic writing, Bennett's description of the everyday, humdrum happenings of ordinary 19th century people pulls you inside the book and makes you feel the characters like they're real flesh-and-blood. It's an exciting, "unputdownable reading" frenzy of non-events.
A remarkable example of the old-fashioned way of telling a story, utilizing no attention-getting, sophisticated-sounding modern tricks.
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