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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
2,469522,483 (4.16)246
  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
    The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed by Judith Flanders (susanbooks)
  6. 00
    Middlemarch by George Eliot (christiguc, Hollerama)
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Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
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 |
For the most part I enjoyed the characters in this book, especially Molly and Roger. The stepmother and stepdaughter were morally bankrupt, insipid characters and Molly had a lot of forbearance in dealing with them. I also like Gaskell's writing style. It is eloquent and draws the reader into the story.

What ruined the book for me was the lack of ending. I was hesitant to read the book because I knew that Gaskell didn't finish it. But from the other reviews I read, many readers said that they still enjoyed the book. It was disappointing to read such a long book and come to an unsatisfactory ending. ( )
  magistrab | Apr 17, 2014 |
Well, well, well. I've added Elizabeth Gaskell to the list as one of my favorite authors. This is the first book I've read by her, and I would highly recommend it. Her other books are going on my To Be Read List immediately.

Wives and Daughters tells the quaint story of a widower who decides that since his daughter, Molly, is growing into a young lady, she needs a mother. He marries widow Hyacinth Clare who has a daughter of her own. That's where things get messy. This is the story of the two families melding together....sort of. There's very rich characterization in this novel. The new mother is distasteful, but not hated. The step-sisters get along great. All the characters have warts, some more than others. I won't tell more of the plot because you must read it.

The author died before she finished the novel. But at 800 pages, she was nearly finished, and you really do know how the story ends. She characterizes small town England in the early 1800's, and in this sweeping saga, we have the pleasure of meeting lords and ladies, town gossips, the tenant farmers, the town doctor and his apprentices, and of course our dear Molly.

"It will be very dull when I shall have killed myself, as it were, and live only in trying to do, and to be as other people like. I don't see any end to it. I might as well never have lived."

"I should hate to be managed," said Molly, indignantly. "I'll try and do what she wishes for papa's sake, if she'll only tell me outright; but I should dislike to be trapped into anything." ( )
1 vote heidip | Apr 1, 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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:30 -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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7 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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