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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
4,014832,884 (4.14)363
Classic Literature. Fiction. Romance. HTML:

Can't get enough of nineteenth-century British romance? Lovers of books like Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights should give Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters a try. This tale follows the romantic ups and downs of Molly Gibson, a doctor's daughter who lives in a small English village and is trying desperately to find the right husband.

.… (more)
  1. 100
    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. 90
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Cecilturtle)
  3. 60
    Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope (atimco)
    atimco: 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
    Middlemarch by George Eliot (christiguc, HollyMS)
  5. 20
    Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (Siliverien)
  6. 10
    The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed by Judith Flanders (susanbooks)

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Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
So much real emotion in this one. I loved it and was happy to let the (long) story slowly unfold. There is a plot but if you need things to move along, this is probably not the book for you. #Victober2019 ( )
  mmcrawford | Dec 5, 2023 |
When 17-year-old Molly Gibson's long-widowed father remarries, she gains a step-mother and step-sister, the latter of which is near her age. However, she now has to share her father and defer to her new mother, both things that are completely foreign to her. There are some clashes beyond that, though, as step-sister Cynthia, who becomes Molly's dear friend, is keeping secrets that will shock the entire town of Hollingford. As Molly matures into a woman, she befriends the Hamley family with their two young, eligible sons, and Lady Harriet, much to the chagrin of Molly's new mother.

This book is long, originally written as a serial of shorter parts for publication in a magazine, and it does tend to meander a bit, without seeming like there's much of a central plot at first. However, once things pick up a few chapters in, I found almost every bit of it interesting, even if it didn't seem to add to a main plot. There are so many things happening, probably because the story was meant to be more of a snapshot of everyday life at the time, rather than a single, solid novel. Yet with all of that, I was never bored (well, maybe when someone's style of dress was described or when Molly's step-mother Hyacinth's thoughts about someone or something was explained). I think that is mostly because the characters were so well written, I enjoyed following them through this life they were living. I really liked Molly, but also loved her father, the town doctor who was an incredibly wise and caring man. And Squire Hamley, for all his blustering and cultural prejudices, found his way into my heart.

Cynthia is probably the most complex character--I'm not sure she knew her own mind for more than a moment at a time. The exploration of what a child who was raised by a single mother who showed no love or affection would grow into was fascinating, even as she drove me crazy. But I felt for her. While she did make her own choices, and as she grows older will be held more and more accountable for them, she didn't enter into womanhood with a very good example. Hyacinth was a selfish, uncaring individual, bordering on sociopathy, really. Her utter lack of empathy and penchant for manipulation were very well written, though, and are a large part of the reason it seems, in a way, that Cynthia never had a chance to be normal.

I know that if I had been reading the text, rather than listening the audiobook, it would have taken me a lot longer to finish this book. However, of all of the audiobooks I've listened to in the last several months that I've started opening myself up to them more, this was the first one that I felt a strong desire to come back to whenever I could, rather than simply putting it on when doing the activities that allow me the chance to listen. This is mostly because of the story itself, of course, but I also want to be clear that Nadia May did a superb job with the narration. The way she differentiated all of the larger characters was astounding, and I especially loved her voice for Mr. Gibson (Molly's dad). There were times that I'd get so caught up in it that I'd completely forget this was one person doing all of the voices. This is my second read by Elizabeth Gaskell, and I think I liked it a little more than North and South, which really surprised me. Though I do still prefer the North and South mini-series to the one based on this novel, but I'm probably biased there for reasons I won't get in to right now. ( )
  Kristi_D | Sep 22, 2023 |
"How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly."

'Wives and Daughters' is essentially the story of an inter-married family from the Victorian era. Molly Gibson is a sweet 17-year-old whose beloved father, the village doctor, suddenly decides to marry to a former governess, a virtual stranger, with a daughter of her own. These four completely different people must get to know each other by living under the same roof. Although Molly's world has been turned upside down, she resolves to make no ripples.

In contrast her stepmother, Hyacinth, is completely self-obsessed. She's creative and crafty enough to always get her own way whilst putting a positive spin on how she goes about it. Everything she says and does is calculated to show her off in the best light and there's nothing in her life that's not done for show. Molly's step-sister Cynthia, has charisma! She knows how to use her beauty to turn men's heads, but she values being loved by others above loving people herself. In fact, although she sees through her mother's act, Cynthia also likes to manipulate people to get her own way.

Dr Gibson, the father, is a steady, easy-going sort of guy who believes that excessive displays of emotion are detrimental to people's health. So we have a gorgeous young heroine who genuinely longs to put others' needs first, stuck with a new authority figure, who only wants to put herself first. How will it all work out?

Living nearby is the Hamley family, also a family of four. There's the bluff, outspoken old squire, his invalid wife, and their two grown-up sons. Osborne is attractive, artistic and the pride of his parents, while his younger brother Roger is seen as solid and is often overlooked. Osborne is into literature and poetry whereas Roger has a knack for science and maths.

Molly and Roger are perfect for each other but initially its his handsome older brother Osborne that she falls for especially because he at least seems to be immune to Cynthia's charms. Roger unfortunately is not.

There are also a host of great minor characters, the aristocratic Cumnor family and the various village gossips, in particular the Browning sisters.

I am sure that some people will regard this as a critique of the all-encompassing authority of men in Victorian society but I think that would be doing them a disservice here. The men were mainly just the figurehead of the families it was the women who pulled the strings.

Gaskell died of a heart-attack with just one chapter left to write, meaning that the ending appears somewhat abrupt. But personally I would have hated to have seen all the ends tied up neatly and feel that it would have ruined the overall effect.

This isn't a quick easy read, my copy ran to just over 700 pages of pretty dense prose, (the Victorians certainly seemed to cherish value for their money). But Gaskell does a great job of mixing pathos with gentle humour and generally I was happy to plod alongside the plot. Overall I found this an OK rather than a great read. I simply found Molly and Roger just too good to really ring true whereas Hyacinth and Cynthia were just too vain to be taken seriously. Personally I loved the gossiping minor characters and would have liked to have seen more of them. I could just imagine them sat around their fires on the long winter nights before the age of radio and TV picking faults in each other.

"Sometimes one likes foolish people for their folly, better than wise people for their wisdom." ( )
  PilgrimJess | Jul 6, 2023 |
I waffled between 3 and 4 stars. There was a lot of bloat, but when things started happening around the halfway mark, I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, things became drawn out again and I just didn't care for the characters and their troubles that much. It failed to pull on my heartstrings like both North & South and Mary Barton did. I'm glad I read it though. ( )
  LynnMPK | Jun 27, 2023 |
Here's what I wrote about this read in 2008: "Quite nice, quite English. Molly Gibson is the beloved daughter of a widowed doctor, who marries again to provide Molly a new mother. All is not bliss, but a good tale results. As noted by an online reviewer . . . Jane Austen-like." ( )
  MGADMJK | Jun 25, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Gaskellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Greenwood, FrederickAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Handley, GrahamEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alou, DamiánTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arping, ÅsaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arping, ÅsaPrefacesecondary 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
Ward, A. W.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To begin with the old rigmarole of childhood.
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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Classic Literature. Fiction. Romance. HTML:

Can't get enough of nineteenth-century British romance? Lovers of books like Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights should give Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters a try. This tale follows the romantic ups and downs of Molly Gibson, a doctor's daughter who lives in a small English village and is trying desperately to find the right husband.


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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014043478X, 0141039396, 014138946X

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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