Precious Bane

Mary Webb

Prudence Sarn was born with a cleft palate, her ‘precious bane’, for which she is persecuted as a witch by her superstitious neighbours. Hiding from daily ridicule, she takes refuge in the wild Shropshire countryside, developing a profound love of nature. Furtively, Prue longs to be loved and harbours a hopeless passion for Kester Woodseaves, the weaver.

Prue’s brother, Gideon, is engaged to her only friend, but in his ambition for wealth at any cost, he incurs the wrath of his would-be father-in-law whose act of vengeance results in Prue being accused of murder. Only Kester, who has perceived her true worth, can defend her from the wrath of her accusers.

Winner of the 1926 Prix Femina Vie Heureuse Prize, Precious Bane is a novel that enchants with its beauty and its timeless truths.

Previous winners

The Women's Prize Podcast


Tune into host Vick Hope and a line-up of incredible guests on our weekly podcast full of unmissable book recommendations.