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Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
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Wives and Daughters (1865)

by Elizabeth Gaskell

Other authors: Frederick Greenwood (Author), Graham Handley (Editor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,613542,291 (4.15)267
  1. 70
    Persuasion by Jane Austen (Shuffy2)
    Shuffy2: In addition to North and South by Gaskell, Wives and Daughters is another great read for people who love Austen's Persusion and Sense and Sensibility!
  2. 70
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Cecilturtle)
  3. 40
    Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope (wisewoman)
    wisewoman: Trollope's Mary Thorne and Gaskell's Molly Gibson have much in common: both their father-figures are country doctors with connections to the local nobility, both fall in love with a man above them in station and wealth, both face undeserved public shame in their social circles, and both are sensible, intelligent heroines.… (more)
  4. 20
    Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (Siliverien)
  5. 10
    Inside the Victorian Home: A Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders (susanbooks)
  6. 00
    Middlemarch by George Eliot (christiguc, Hollerama)
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» See also 267 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
It was my first foray into classical literature in a very very long time. I loved it and its the reason why I read more classics even to this day! ( )
  nraichlin | Jan 26, 2016 |
Brimming with incredible insights into human psychology, the novel is measured and purposeful in its depiction of the relationships between the inhabitants of a small sleepy English town. The nuanced characterisations - the understanding that flaws and strengths are often two sides of the same coin -, along with the sporadic interrupting wit of the authorial comments, elevate what could have been just another frivolous period drama.

As the title itself suggests, the story revolves mostly around women, but also as the title suggests, it is mostly about their roles in relation to men. Nevertheless, the range of women from forthright to meek, from artful to artless, populate and drive the plots from disasters, and it is clear that they could have truly been independent were it not for the patriarchal setting. For example, Clare, though the blurb/story deigns her vain and manipulative - which really is just another way of saying she knows the value of appearances and getting people to do what she wants -, would have been a brilliant and successful boss.

Then there is Molly, who is presented as a simple, country girl but is also capable of amazing underhanded threats while also being irrational in her unrequited love to the point of reacting to Roger's romantic interest in Cynthia with "but his dying mother once called me by the name of his dead sister!" The psychology behind the compatibility between Osborne and Aimée - the needy and the need to be needed - is the one of the most scathing and realistic accounts of (fictional) relationships I have ever read.

Of course, the novel is not without its flaws, even with its strength in understandably flawed characters. Roger's casual, abnormal perfection - senior wrangler, published researcher of physiology, amateur estate lawyer, now at the forefront of a scientific expedition and breakthrough - is mindboggling. At one point, the story even seemed to be replaying the ridiculous misfortunes-and-deaths domino effect of the Hales from North and South.

For a plot which could be summed up sensationally in three lines, it is all the more impressive how substantial and fully fleshed out the characters are, that we are able to understand and justify their motives in every step. I particularly enjoyed the unintended abrupt ending, which, far from discrediting all that has happened beforehand, imbues the novel with an ineffable quality. ( )
  kitzyl | Jan 22, 2016 |
Wives and Daughters is a classic of romance literature. Written after Jane Austen's novels, around the time of Little Women and the Brontë sisters, it was a social commentary as much as an entertaining serial. While not the everday, if bizarre, characters of a Charles Dickens tale, the characters in Wives and Daughters are not entirely 'common', half of Molly's acquaintance resembling various gentry characters from Downton Abbey, and the other probably being more familiar to readers of Jane Austen. While Pride and Prejudice's inter-class romance was shocking, a match of love, based on friendship and respect, between a country doctor's daughter and a gentleman was still a bit of a leap. It's romantic, of course, but its also deeply satisfying. This is as true for the incomplete story, Gaskell died before finishing it, as it is for any imagined ending. The one published by a contemporary author, as well as the one the 1999 BBC Miniseries created.

The abrupt ending also makes it an easy topic to center ones review around, and from a modern writer's aspect, it could be interesting as an exercise to complete it. After all one would have to be up on those times, and write in the author's style, and hopefully some hints had been left behind with which to continue a faithful continuation. Unlike a certain author of the same century, I don't believe Gaskell was intending to spite the readers who were cheering for the lovebirds since the beginning. A reviewer could also easily segue into reading several different endings, which would all be in about the same vein, and deciding which was her favorite.

I had no idea how the story should end, but I found the BBC adaption, and the ending, to be practically perfect. (As perfect as can be for a Victorian romance.) While I have no problem 'spoiling' a centuries old novel, I will not spoil the miniseries for you. The ending was so satisfying, that I was high on it for days.

Gaskell knows whats going on in all her characters minds, and her characterizations are wonderful, if not always charming. Like Austen, she sees the hypocrisy and trouble with being a good parent, a good person, and a romantic person. In today's highly self-aware and critical world, we won't agree with everything the characters say or do, but it's not entirely clear that Gaskell thinks her 'teasing' heroine or 'berating' father figure are indeed correct. I think she's just replicating things she has seen, and idealized them a bit, made them interesting for us. If a reader declares, probably being correct in doing so, that Cynthia is allowed to flirt with whom she pleases, they forget the context of Cynthia and of the work; it is not appropriate for the times the character, or the author, lived in. That seems to be the biggest feminist problem with this work, and because Gaskell cannot defend herself, we can assume and pressume whatever we please. Is Molly actually interested in Natural History, or is her interest in the men? Is Cynthia at fault for leading men on, when all she claims is a wish to be well liked by her present company?

Where Elizabeth Bennett and her father got along, despite all their failings, there is actually a well-deserved falling out between Molly Gibson and her father in this book. I barely lasted a chapter, but I relished all the same. How Gaskell intended us to read the characters is irrelevant, we as readers bring our own histories to the pages, and I find the characters refreshing. I once got into a somewhat heated conversation with a teacher about reading into the decadence of The Great Gatsby: it unintentionally foreshadows Black Friday, I said, while the argument against me was 'Fitzgerald wrote Great Gatsby before then, he didn't know it would happen!' I did not think that, either, Doctor, but I did wonder if that which rises opportunistically should be dismissed? Should we ignore the sometimes encompassing idiocy of characters like Mr. Bennett and Mr. Gibson, while they in turn bemoan 'hysteria'? No one can say if Gaskell sided with Mr. Gibson or Cynthia in their falling out, but since societal morality at the time of her novel and at the time of publication sided with Mr. Gibson, he is automatically given the right. I say, if the work holds up to it, why not remeasure it's themes? The author isn't the only one in this relationship, after all, and she's dead.

Gutenberg Edition.
  knotbox | Dec 1, 2014 |
This is the first Gaskell book that I've read, but I'm not sure why I kept reading as long as I did, as it wasn't really a very enjoyable book. It was overly long for having so little happen, and every little thing felt drawn out and it sometimes got a bit repetitive, due to all the overly detailed descriptions and build-up. And yet, there was still more to come, except that the author had died before writing the rest!

Beyond the length being an issue, the biggest problem was that the characters felt more like paper dolls than real people. It seemed like the author danced around really defining them, getting too caught up in the overly wordy writing style to make them seem like actual humans. A lot more telling than showing.

It also didn't help to have the regular reminders that the story took place some years before it was written, though the author contradicted herself or dated things incorrectly on multiple occasions (as the included endnotes pointed out). Not to mention the annoying overuse of "tête-à-tête!"

Perhaps some of her other works are better written, but this one certainly hasn't made a great initial impression on me, especially after having recently read works by Dickens and Trollope. ( )
  digitalmaven | Jun 12, 2014 |
2006, BBC Audiobooks, Read by Prunella Scales

“The autumn drifted away through all its seasons. The golden corn-harvest, the walks through the stubble-fields, and rambles into hazel-copses in search of nuts; the stripping of the apple-orchards of their ruddy fruit, amid the joyous cries and shouts of watching children; and the gorgeous tulip-like colouring of the later time had now come on with the shortening days. There was comparative silence in the land, excepting for the distant shots, and the whirr of the partridges as they rose up from the field.” (Ch 42)

When young Molly Gibson, being raised by her widowed father, attracts the attention of one of the doctor’s students, she is sent to stay with local gentry family, the Hamleys. She forms a close attachment with Mrs Hamley and befriends the younger son, Roger. The elder Hamley son, Osborne, is naturally expected to make a brilliant marriage following his career at Cambridge. But he performs poorly at university, and social expectations are thwarted. In the meantime, Roger has achieved the academic recognition that was to be his brother’s, and has become a renowned scientist.

Mr Gibson remarries the widow (and social climber) Mrs Kirkpatrick; and she and her daughter, Cynthia, the same age as Molly, become a family. While Molly is delighted to have a sister, the two could not be more different: Molly naïve and slightly awkward; and Cynthia “pretty, pawky, a flirt, and a jilt.” The newlywed Mrs Gibson sets her sights on a match between Cynthia and Osborne Hamley. But, much to Molly’s heartbreak, it is Roger who asks for Cynthia’s hand. Alas, her hand is not free to give … it has been formerly promised to the scoundrel land agent, Mr Preston; and what’s worse, Molly is about to be dragged into Cynthia’s drama and become herself the subject of malicious gossip.

As one would expect of Gaskell, Wives and Daughters is beautifully written and full of rich characters, both adorable and deplorable. I loved the story line, too, but Gaskell died before the novel could be finished, and its denouement, which she had allegedly related to a friend, remains unwritten. Interestingly, the BBC adaptation uses an alternate ending which I found very satisfying. In any case, Prunella Scales has done a wonderful job of narration here, and the novel is highly recommended, particularly to those who love the Victorian classics. ( )
1 vote lit_chick | May 11, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Gaskellprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Greenwood, FrederickAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Handley, GrahamEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alou, DamiánTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arping, ÅsaPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arping, ÅsaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bailey, JosephineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kwiatkowska, KatarzynaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lane, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maurier, George DuIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Morris, PamEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ott, AndreaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reinhard-Stocker, AliceAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scales, PrunellaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sundström, Gun-BrittTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vierne, BéatriceTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The answer was silly enough, logically; but forcible in fact. Cynthia was Cynthia, and not Venus herself could have been her substitute. In this one thing Mr. Preston was more really true than many worthy men, who, seeking to be married, turn with careless facility from the unattainable to the attainable, and keep their feelings and fancy tolerably loose till they find a woman who consents to be their wife. But no one would ever be to Mr. Preston what Cynthia had been, and was; and yet he could have stabbed her in certain of his moods.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014043478X, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:31 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A Victorian country gentleman's new marriage produces mixed reactions from family and close associates in his English village.

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13 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014043478X, 0141039396, 014138946X

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