Melissa's Reviews > Wives and Daughters

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
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's review
Feb 01, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: books-i-own, romance, classics
Read from July 05 to August 30, 2010 , read count: 1

This is a very readable and entertaining read, despite its length. (Indeed, I wish it were longer and finished by the author.) The characters were expertly drawn out, with all their foibles, sins, charms, and virtues. There were lessons to be learned, changes to be made, lives to be understood, and all the while you feel almost as if there experiencing it. Molly shines in her sweetness and love, yet she is not without fault. She does, however, for the most part honor her father, ask forgiveness when she is wrong, and try to do her part bravely. Her father, in return, loves his daughter, sets good boundaries, and has a firmness of character and desire to make the best of things. Some of his judgments may be made too hastily, but all in all he is a fine father. The character of the new mother is one that at times amuses, but more often aggravates with her selfishness and deceit. Cynthia is a more complex character who has little love for others, yet manages to be pleasant and honest more often than not.

The relationship between the squire, his sons, and his daughter-in-law, is one of great pathos and regret, yet with some hope after all. (And was it all the fault of the father that the son did not confide in him? I think not.)

These characters and more will not be easily forgotten. Their stories are ones which inspire thought on life and what ought or ought not to be done.
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Reading Progress

07/08/2010 page 7
08/10/2010 page 203
31.0% 2 comments
08/20/2010 page 495
76.0% 1 comment
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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Laura Verret I really enjoyed this book - even though it didn't have an ending!

Melissa Yes, that's too bad about the ending. I enjoyed the movie based on it, too.

Melissa So I guess you would consider it worth reading. Were there good lessons, historical and otherwise? I'm just trying to determine whether I really want to wade through this big book; if it's worth my time. I'm trying to keep romantic and entertaining reading limited, and I also read in the intro to this book that Gaskell was subtly trying to say that Molly was capable and her father was wrong to assume she needed protecting, and that Gaskell was even related to Darwin, I believe, so the naturalist thinking was in this book, though not in evolutionary terms because the story takes place before that theory came out. I did enjoy the movie and thought it might have some good lessons in self-sacrifice (we almost always skipped the part when they were in their underclothes talking about beauty), but I just want to hear more of your thoughts on it.

Melissa Of course, I'm sure there's some worth to it since you liked it. :)

message 5: by Sara (new)

Sara This is one of my favorite books! It's very HUMAN and in every way a classic. There are the parts about Darwin...but they're challenges to grow andthink. (Goodreads is being totally stubborn and won't let me continue - but I'm looking forward to your thoughts on W&D! I should read it again...)

Melissa I probably will give it a chance. Thanks for your thoughts, Sara.

Laura Verret Hello, Melissa!

I'm so sorry for not responding to your comment - I posted mine just before we left for SA and I didn’t see that you had responded until I went through all of my e-mails just now.

I’m just going to throw out a few quick thoughts. I really enjoyed the book ‘Wives and Daughters’ when I read it about nine months ago. I mention the time that has passed because my evaluation of books is in a continual flux as I try to become more Biblical in my approach to literature. I would say that as far as classic English Literature goes, this is one of the best works; but if you are trying to ‘semper reformanda’ your reading (I know, that is not a verb ;D) it won’t go at the top of your reading list.

There are a few little spots where evolution is mentioned, but they weren’t very obtrusive to the plot. I had never really thought about the Molly’s judgment vs. her Dad’s issue, but I can see where that could be a serious problem with the book if it is true. However, that may just be the writer trying to impose his/her own agenda on the book. One thing that I did enjoy musing over was the difference between Molly and Cynthia; Molly as a stay-at-home daughter who was educated by her father and taught to run the household, truly loved her father vs. Cynthia who was sent to a boarding school, taught nothing useful and had a difficult relationship with her mother. I’m not trying to ‘Christianize’ this Unitarian work, but I did find that a fruitful subject for thought.

About the romance, that is one of the things that I enjoyed. The book is so wordy that it isn’t just ‘he felt, she felt’ and the book is over. It would be more 'they met and talked and then lived their own lives without being unheathfully dependent on each other and then met again'! I guess what I’m trying to say is, the romance was more substantial and realistic than most novels. I find that Gaskell has a more subtle wit than Jane Austen, which makes the work enjoyable.

All of that to say, I wouldn’t consider this an ‘epistemologically self-conscious’ book, but it is definitely one of the best volumes from the ‘classic’ genre.

I hope that wasn’t too confusing!

Laura K.

Melissa Thanks, Laura--that was very enlightening! I basically felt that way about the movie, too, so I was thinking this would be better than most romances. You could be right about the thing vs. Molly and her dad, because I only thought of them as being loving and caring for each other, even though Molly was quite capable and the father didn't make a very wise choice of a second wife. But that does happen sometimes, and I certainly don't think he is made out to be an idiot, as some of the books/movies today do (whether for bad reasons or not).

Melissa And that's all right about not responding--it hasn't been too long. :)

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