Tuesday 11 August 2015

Wives and daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

3 out of 5 stars

I had to adjust my expectations when reading this classic. This book was read after a marathon session of catching up on some really good crime/thriller novels, which were fast paced and full of action. Cue a gentle English country village.

So much charm. Wonderfully counterbalanced endearing and annoying characters. The observation of life in the early 1800s was beautifully done. I listened to the Audible version, and I think that was a good idea. It forced me to slow down, and be captivated by the story, which was written as a serial for a magazine in 1864-6. I wonder whether serial writing still exists today?

The subtitle was “An everyday story”, which kind of sums it up. The novel centres around Doctor Gibson, his daughter, Molly, and how they cope with his second wife and stepdaughter, whose values and personalities are quite different to their quiet, respectable ones.

There are many suitors with declarations of love – accepted and rejected by the two young ladies. There are also the dowagers of society and their commentary on all that happens around them and the work of a squire, a doctor, and a writer.

The book ends abruptly, as Mrs Gaskell died before she could finish the novel. The publisher does explain how her notes describe how it should have ended. It wasn’t a major problem for me, I thought that there was probably only a chapter to go. However, I did know this in advance. I may have felt differently had I not?

The characters are a little one dimensional. The lengthy story is never preachy, but unfolds through much dialogue and interaction between the characters. The observations of society at that time are fascinating.

ISBN: 9780140434781

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My previous review: Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

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