The story begins in 1812. William Oldroyd decides to mechanize his woolen mill, a move that will put many workers out of jobs. Joe Bamforth, a foreman whose job is secure, joins his fellow mill hands, taking the Luddite oath. A quartet of Luddites murder the elder Oldroyd. Although Joe is guiltless, he chooses to be hanged with his mates.
Young Will takes over the business, spurning Mary Oldroyd whom he loves and who, unknown to Will, carries his child. Much later, as a widower, Will takes Mary as his second wife and acknowledges his son Jonathan, to the distress of the children of both wives.
In the decades through World War I, the Oldroyd’s financial fortunes rise and the Bamforth’s decline.
The Oldroyds are respected for financial savvy, the Bamforths for their moral standards.
The Oldroyds scramble to stay on top; the Bamforths reach a hand to help others rise.
Bentley is superb at showing ordinary people caught up in historic events. Readers can learn a great deal about the contemporary economic situation from this novels. The Luddites, rather than being old-fashioned fuddy-duddies, seem very much like contemporary workers sucked into the Occupy movement.
Bentley’s characters, however, are bundles of character traits rather than true individuals. The children in the book, in particular, appear to replicas of their dominant parent from the moment of birth. At the last, Bentley’s novel sinks beneath the implausibility of a preteen jumping from a train to change the world.Inheritance Phyllis Bentley MacMillan, 1931 1932 Bestseller #9 592 pages
Photo credit: Loom in in New Lanark Mill, Scotland uploaded by hazelharp http://www.sxc.hu/photo/207250