Written in 1911, The Card is the story of Edward Henry (Denry) Machin, who rises from washerwoman's son to the Mayor of Bursley (Burslem in the Potteries town of Stoke-on-Trent) via a mixture of gentle deceit and personal hype.
He is literally a trickster of confidence. His rise to fame is begun at an exclusive ball to which he has got himself invited, where he has the audacity to claim a dance with the glamourous but imposing Countess of Chell. His reputation as a card, or someone we all want to talk about, thus confirmed, Denry continues his irresitable rise through the sticky class system of turn-of-the-century Britain using money, influence and the allure of what we have come to call celebrity.
With the aid of the Countess, who cannot seem to prevent herself helping him, Denry conquers Bursely, The Five Towns and, as the longevity of the book’s reputation testifies, the literary world.