Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

Wives and Daughters

by Elizabeth Gaskell

Set in English society before the 1832 Reform Bill, Wives and Daughters centres on the story of youthful Molly Gibson, brought up from childhood by her father. When he remarries, a new step-sister enters Molly's quiet life – loveable, but worldly and troubling, Cynthia. The narrative traces the development of the two girls into womanhood within the gossiping and watchful society of Hollingford.

Wives and Daughters is far more than a nostalgic evocation of village life; it offers an ironic critique of mid-Victorian society. 'No nineteenth-century novel contains a more devastating rejection than this of the Victorian male assumption of moral authority', writes Pam Morris in her introduction to this new edition, in which she explores the novel's main themes – the role of women, Darwinism and the concept of Englishness – and its literary and social context.

I had a love/hate relationship with this book.  There were some parts where it felt tedious and then many parts that I absolutely loved.  I had to take a break from reading it...I think it was for a week or more. 
Such characters!  Mrs. Gibson gave me this hunted and trapped feeling.  I was beginning to dread every scene with her in it, yet love the drama she brought.  I can completely understand why Cynthia turned out the way she did.  Oh man, she was a piece of work. 
I was so disappointed that the story ended when it did.  Nothing was resolved, the future was uncertain, and no feelings were discussed.  I think I read somewhere that Mrs. Gaskell died before she could finish it.  I was hoping for an ending similar to the one seen in the Masterpiece Classic movie.  So disappointed.  But still, the story was good.  I loved Mr. Gibson and the Squire.  They were both very endearing with their gruff exteriors. 

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