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Wives and Daughters

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  23,935 ratings  ·  1,391 reviews
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 s...more
Paperback, 720 pages
Published January 1st 1997 by Penguin Classics (first published 1865)
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B0nnie
To begin with the old rigmarole of childhood. In a country there was a shire, and in that shire there was a town, and in that town there was a house, and in that house there was a room, and in that room there was a bed, and in that bed there lay a little girl…

Wives and Daughters reads like a fairytale and we are immediately enchanted by its gentle charm. Stepmother, prince, villain, woods, a ball, castle, climbing roses, birds and beasts. It's all there.

However, the stepmother is not evil -...more
Kim

Why has it taken me so long to finally read this wonderful novel? I bought the Penguin edition when I was in my 20s, read a page or two, put it down and didn't pick it up again. The book sat on my shelf for years. For all I know, it could be there still. However, after university I went right off Victorian literature and it's only been in the last twelve months or so that I've felt the desire to tackle it again. And now I've fallen in love with Elizabeth Gaskell's writing.

In brief, the novel is...more
Lori
Oct 22, 2008 Lori rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Austen fans
Shelves: 2008, fiction
Oh. MY. WORD.

This is, in every sense of the phrase, the never-ending story.

I had been wanting to see the BBC's film version of this book for years, but never got around to it. In a story too complicated to explain, I was not able to get the video, so decided I'd try to read the book instead.

The book is 60 chapters long. SIXTY. 650 pages. The first two slow chapters made me return the book to the library. But the story kept nagging at me, so a few months later, I tried again. The story definitely...more
Wealhtheow
Molly Gibson is a kind-hearted, intelligent, sensitive girl who is thrown into society when her father, the equally sensible but far more sarcastic Mr.Gibson, marries. His new wife is flighty, hypocritical, and manipulative, but all in such a soft, pliant way that it is difficult to oppose her. With her comes her daughter Cynthia Fitzpatrick, who is Molly's own age but beautiful where Molly is pretty, and socially brilliant where Molly is genuine. Cynthia and Molly immediately become best friend...more
Jane
Where I got the book: free on the Kindle. Although I think I should pick up an annotated edition one of these days.

It's not often I finish a book with a big smile on my face, despite the teasing ending (which had me seriously worried that my free Kindle version had something missing, but then I decided it was entirely consistent with the story). Update: Thanks to more informed friends, I now know that Mrs. Gaskell died before finishing the book, which is the biggest bummer I can possibly think o...more
Sherwood Smith
Sep 03, 2014 Sherwood Smith added it
Shelves: fiction
Reread.

Great novels really are different books to different readers--and can vary for the same reader as well. But what really struck me when I reached that end was how this novel illustrates, like a nearly physical blow, the different between being told something and being shown. That is, when ‘show’ is done with Gaskell’s extraordinary skill. The reader hits that last chapter, and we’re told by the editor what will happen. We know how everyone ends up. But the effect is still a cold splash of...more
Cissy
This is my new favorite. Written by a lesser-known British author in the mid-1800s, this novel would be enjoyed by Austen and Dickens fans. It is very long--more than 600 pages in small print--but the characters are wonderfully detailed and the story very compelling. It is not a difficult read, but I do recommend getting a version that has notes explaining period references. I loved the sweetness of the main character, Molly Gibson, and all the different relationships between her and the other c...more
Jane
Towards the end of last year I spent many happy hours visiting a world so perfectly realised that it still lifts my heart when I think of it. I stepped into the middle of the 1830s, into the English countryside that Mrs Gaskell knew so well, I met people who were so real, fallible, interesting, and I became caught up in their lives and their stories.

At the centre of it all was Molly Gibson, the only child of a widowed doctor. The apple of his eye.

In a lovely prologue she was twelve years old and...more
SarahC
This novel achieves much and thoughts of it do not leave the mind quickly. Gaskell captures both the human experience and the beautiful settings of mid-19th-century English country life. You will be drawn into this world as she introduces the lives of the common folk of Hollingford and those who hold distinction either by title or by ancient stewardship of the land. Regardless of rank, Gaskell’s characters face essentially human situations.

Our heroine, young Molly Gibson, on the brink of adultho...more
Mira
Wives and Daughters is Elizabeth Gaskell at her finest. Written in the year preceding her death, the novel unfortunately never got finished. However, it is amazingly enjoyable, and makes one of the best love stories, as well as an excellent social commentary.

Little Molly Gibson, who lives with her widowed father, suddenly has the opportunity to see her world changing, when she is invited for a stay with the Hamleys, while her father is busy elsewhere getting married. In Molly, we have an endear...more
Phrynne
I only have one small criticism of this book which is that, in the usual manner of books written as a series, it went on a little too long. However the characters were delightful, the writing was excellent and the story kept me captured to the very end. It is a pity we do not have the last chapter in the writer's own words but I think we can all see what the ending was going to be. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys books from this period.
Janet
Apr 09, 2012 Janet rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Jane-ites and Bronte fans
I had high hopes for this based on the reviews of others in addition to the fact that I'm a sucker for 19th c. British writers. Dickens - check. Austen - check. Charlotte, Anne & Emily - check. Eliot - check. Thackeray - check. Collins - a half check. Trollope - a triple check. James (you can argue he's an American) - a quadruple check. Okay, you get the idea.

While I like nothing better than the head games played in provincial drawing rooms they have to be executed by individuals of depth in...more
Christopher H.
As trite as it sounds, if you like Jane Austen, you'll love this Wives and Daughters! A terrific plot and fascinating characters. Gaskell really does a wonderful job of portraying life and love among the country folk in provincial England. There's a touch of mystery and villainy, and a good bit of humor too; and one can't but fall head-over-heels in love with little Molly Gibson, the novel's main protagonist. I strongly recommend this book, and Gaskell as an author.

She also wrote a biography of...more
Marialyce
This was another wonderful book by Elizabeth Glaskell. Having read her previously, I have to wonder why she is not more "well known" in the annals of Victorian literature that was dominated by Dickens and others.

Following the lives of various women (and men) of a small town near London, we see what the mores of the Victorian society bring upon all. One could not help but enjoy all the characters from the wife of Dr Gibson, mother to our main characters Molly and Cynthia to the squire Hamley and...more
Jen Stowell
WOW--if you don't already know, this is one of my very favorites (second only to pride and prejudice). If you are an Austen fan you will absolutely love Elizabeth Gaskell. She is a Bronte contemporary and has a very distince style. Like all English novels of this era, Wives can get wordy in spots and there are LONG descriptions. This never bothers me--I guess my imagination needs all the descriptive help it can get.

The story is about a young woman, Molly Gibson, who lost her mother when she was...more
Scott
We had to read this for 12th grade English Lit. Our teacher had gone on a yearlong sabbatical to study Victorian serial novels, and this way one of his "great finds" that he foisted upon us. It was horrible. Serial novelists were paid to keep the story going interminably, and there is no sense of forward movement. Worse, the author died before finishing, and a hack was paid to finish it for her. Belongs in the dustbin of history, not on a 12th grade English lit booklist--having kids read garbage...more
Katie
I read this wonderful book voraciously, on trains and planes, by pools and mountains, while drinking tea and cocktails, and I did not know until the moment it ended that it does not have a last chapter. I am dead now.
Lesley
Lesser Austen, better than Barbara Cartland.

If you've ever wondered how the Bennett sisters' daughters might have turned out, you may find this interesting. Although written in 1866, it is set 30 years earlier, in a time when Austen's universe of landed gentry was undergoing serious challenges from industrialization, scientific discovery, and social mobility.All are themes in the novel, which centers around a brilliant Scottish physician who marries a dim-witted, self-absorbed ex governess and s...more
Margaret
I read Wives and Daughters, Gaskell's last, unfinished novel, for the first time in 2003 and liked it so much that I decided to read it again the next year. I liked it even more the second time. On the surface, it's a tale of English village life, harkening back to Gaskell's first novel, Cranford, but below the veneer of gentility and quiet humor, Gaskell offers up as powerful a critique of Victorian society as in her more overtly "social" novels, like Ruth or Mary Barton.

The heroine of Wives an...more
Elise
Aug 17, 2007 Elise rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of Austen and the Brontes
I discovered this book in high school when my library gave away a ton of books. I took my brown paper bag full of books, and to my delight, discovered Ms. Gaskell.
The book focuses on one Molly Gibson, a sweet girl, who is almost too good to be true. As we all know, perfect girls don't attract beaus, and poor Molly first loses her father to a n overbearing stepmother, and then her crush to her conceited, flaky stepsister.
Fortunately, there are those who do recognize her merits, and her trials...more
Laura
Dec 10, 2010 Laura rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Lee
Wives and Daughters was written in the 1860s and serialised in the Cornhill Magazine. It is set in the 1820s and deals to a large extent with the position of women in Society. Elizabeth Gaskell left it unfinished, so any dramatiser of the novel is faced with guessing the intended outcome of the story.

Theresa Heskins previously adapted Lady Audley's Secret for the Woman's Hour serial, and has adapted Bleak House and Great Expectations for the New Vic Theatre, North Staffordshire, where she is Art...more
Penny
This is Elizabeth Gaskell's last novel and the ending is unfinished - hence 4 stars as I really wished that wasn't the case. I wanted the ending as Mrs Gaskell would have written it.

In clear Gaskell fashion we follow Molly Gibson ,daughter of the local doctor, as she grows up amongst the rich and not so rich of her local circle. There is much Jane Austen-esque characterisation going on - we have Mrs Gibson - who vexes her poor husband much like Mrs Bennett of P&P fame. We have two elderly go...more
Leslie
4 1/2 stars. I hadn't realized that this book was unfinished (although only by one chapter apparently). This is my favorite of Gaskell's novels that I have read so far - it has the charm of Cranford with the romance of North and South.
Dedrick Burch
I absolutely loved this book. The characters are all so richly developed and several are completely endearing. The book centers around Molly Gibson, who is in her teens in the beginning of the book, and her family, which includes her surgeon father, and her stepmother and step-sister, Cynthia. And of course, there are many other richly drawn characters, such as Roger and Osborne Hamley, the former being the love interest of Molly and her sister, Cynthia. Molly and her father are the ideal of all...more
FlibBityFLooB
Several years ago I watched the BBC production of Wives & Daughters and had a strong intention to read the book by Elizabeth Gaskell. I finally had the opportunity to read the novel and enjoyed it. The beginning and ending for me was a bit anti-climatic, but I really adored the characters that Gaskell portrayed throughout the bulk of the book.

Molly, the heroine, was a bit sassy at times, but yet was constructed by the author to be of the highest character. On the otherhand, Cynthia, her ste...more
Kelly
Jul 21, 2011 Kelly rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Elizabeth-sometimes a re-read is a must. Kelly- she must know my joy.
Recommended to Kelly by: Charlotte Bronte
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anne Ivory
I really loved the beginning chapters of this book, specially the relationship between Molly Gibson and her father. It was so very sweet. You can actually feel her father's panic at the thought of his daughter being left behind at the peer's home, so much so, that he missed his dinner, got back on his horse, even though he'd just returned from a hard day at work, rushed off to bring his daughter back home. And little Molly so frightened by the new-ness of it all, in spite of the fact she had bee...more
Leslie
Deserves its reputation as one of her best. She died with the last chapter or two not yet written, but it's easy to see how things would have ended. The pleasure of the book is not in the ending, but in the fineness of the characterisations. Standouts are Mrs Gibson--the horrible, selfish, stupid, wonderful Mrs Gibson (it's oddly appropriate that the novel breaks off with her voice)--and Cynthia (although the conventions of Victorian novels and the business of publication prevented Gaskell from...more
Emily
If you love the George Eliot, Jane Austen, the Brontes, etc., you must read this book. It's very similar in style to those, but really finds a way to stand out for me because of a few reasons.

First, Elizabeth Gaskell is simply very, very funny. She inserts comedy into this novel as often as every other emotion, and the jokes are truly timeless ("Don't you know that an engagement is an engagement?" "Did I ever say an engagement was an elephant?")

Second, I felt that Gaskell's way of painting a po...more
Jeana
I've been working on this book (on and off) for nearly a month. It's not a short novel and it doesn't read fast. I've had to squeeze in two book-club books since I began as well. I feel like I've known these characters so well and so long that they could have been my neighbors, my family. I love Molly. Who wouldn't? She's so sweet and thoughtful and meek. And I felt her frustrations throughout this whole novel. I knew Wives and Daughters was not completed (even as long as it was) because Gaskell...more
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Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, née Stevenson (29 September 1810 – 12 November 1865), often referred to simply as Mrs. Gaskell, was an English novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. She is perhaps best known for her biography of Charlotte Brontë. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and as such are of interest to socia...more
More about Elizabeth Gaskell...
North and South Cranford Mary Barton The Life of Charlotte Brontë Ruth

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