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Wives and Daughters

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  42,475 ratings  ·  2,412 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, Penguin Classics, 679 pages
Published May 30th 1996 by Penguin Books (first published 1863)
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Linnea Kroeger I am not sure of any author who has tried to finish the book, however, the BBC has made mini series of Wives and Daughters which is very accurate and …moreI am not sure of any author who has tried to finish the book, however, the BBC has made mini series of Wives and Daughters which is very accurate and they added an end that is quite charming as well as fitting.(less)
Rayna I'm still reading it, so can't give a definitive answer, but this interesting question occurred to me too. I LOVED Fathers and Sons. I think it is a l…moreI'm still reading it, so can't give a definitive answer, but this interesting question occurred to me too. I LOVED Fathers and Sons. I think it is a little more interior and less ironic (humorous? sarcastic?) than Wives and Daughters. But the sharp observation and attention to detail is similar. (less)

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Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
This 1865 novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, who also wrote the lovely North and South, is a pleasant but rather leisurely and lengthy tale of the personalities that inhabit an English country town in about the 1830's. The novel centers around Molly Gibson, the quiet and somewhat passive, but deeply sensitive, daughter of a widowed country doctor.

We meet Molly and her father when she's an innocent 12 year old girl, about to spend the day visiting the estate of the local gentry, Lord and Lady Cumnor, s
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourite-books
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 -
Katie Lumsden
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-stars
[Review on second reading]
I have no words for how much I love this book and how thoroughly impressed I was on this reread. It is an incredible, beautiful, poignant, subtle novel, and an absolute must-read.
[Review on third reading]
I have to say this is fast becoming one of my absolute favourite novels of all time. What a book.
Sean Barrs
Do you like fairy tales? Well Gaskell certainly did:

"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; wide awake and longing to get up, but not daring to do so for fear of the unseen power in the next room - a certain Betty, whose slumbers must not be disturbed until six o'clock struck,
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Sherwood Smith
2020 reread:

My Jane Austen book group is reading this book, a great excuse for a reread, as it is one of my favorites of all time. I also remain firm in my belief that it is one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century. George Elliott certainly thought so--she admitted that this book was the inspiration for her great novel Middlemarch.

I do think that this book is in conversation with Jane Austen on a number of levels, first being that what women thought matters. All kinds of women, whate
Lucy Powrie
Whilst Wives and Daughters isn't my favourite Elizabeth Gaskell, I loved the insight in to 19th century domestic life, especially the customs, relationships and descriptions of rural living.

Our heroine, Molly Gibson, is unassuming and quiet, yet has an inner steely determination and steadfast values that I really appreciated. All the characters, in fact, feel like they have been drawn from life, and I particularly enjoyed the way that Mrs Gibson was characterised - she was highly irritating in p
Olive Fellows (abookolive)


I finished this 700 page book in less than four days, which of course means that by my rating system it's a five star, utterly compulsive read. But now having gulped the whole thing down I'm going back to re-read it at a more sedate, Victorian pace.

How could I not love a book that has lines like these:

“I won't say she was silly, but I think one of us was silly, and it wasn't me!”

“All sorts of thoughts cross one's mind—it depends upon whether one gives them harbour and encouragement”

Helene Jeppesen
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5/5 stars.
This book was really really good! I even think it was better than "North & South" by the same author, which seems to be a lot of people's favourite.
What I love the most about this story is the characters which are so distinct and different from each other, but all yet so lovable. I loved how Elizabeth Gaskell has created such a variety of characters that you can't help but love, even though some of them are definitely meant to be annoying and impertinent (a new word that I learned
Mar 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I loved sweet Molly Gibson and her father who is the village doctor. On the other hand, her stepmother and stepsister were something else! The only thing sad in this book is that Gaskell died before finishing it!
Sep 08, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Austen fans
Shelves: 2008, fiction

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
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Katie Ziegler (Life Between Words)
One of my favorite classics ever. This was just wonderful. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend this book. It's long, so I know it would be intimidating for folks who haven't read a lot of classics, but it really would be a great place to start because it was so readable and filled with beautiful characters. I loved every second.
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes the Brontes
Set in the 1830’s, at a time when society was in flux, but the separations between the gentry and the commoner still tightly drawn, Wives and Daughters is a captivating glimpse into the lives of two girls, thrown into a blended family. Our main heroine, Molly Gibson, is a simple and honest girl, brought up by her father, a physician, and raised without the influence of a mother. Upon her father’s remarriage, she is introduced not only to the restrictiveness of a shallow and grating step-mother b ...more
An absolutely delightful read. The author nails how people behave, back in the 1830s and still now today. Laughing and smiling is not what one expects with a book of realism. It is this in the writing that I find both intriguing and appealing.

The story is about Molly Gibson. She is twelve when the story starts. At the age of three her mother had died and so she had been raised by her loving father, Doctor Gibson of the provincial English town Hollingford. It is about a day’s journey from London.
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My first time reading this Elizabeth Gaskell masterpiece and a masterpiece it truly is. To me, this author is a virtuoso at character development. The two main characters, Molly Gibson and her step-sister, Cynthia are brilliant creations. In fact, just about all the major characters presented are subtly drawn, imbued with both good and bad traits. They feel genuine, not like the caricatures or archetypes one sometimes finds in other Victorian period novels. As a reader you enjoy spending time wi ...more
Wives and Daughters is Elizabeth Gaskell's final novel which was interrupted in its completion due to the untimely death of the author. However incomplete it may be to the end, I found the book to be a completed work with beautiful writing, an interesting set of characters and a good storyline. At a time when the "sensational" novels were in the peak of its popularity, Gaskell courageously took to writing this realist story which she called "An Everyday Story".

The story mainly revolves around th
April (Aprilius Maximus)
At the moment this is sitting at a 3.5 stars from me. I definitely enjoyed it, but I didn't LOVE it, and there's the fact that this book isn't complete which is hella rude. How dare Elizabeth Gaskell die before finishing this book?!
Aaaaaanyway, I LOVED Roger, Mr Gibson & Squire Hamley and absolutely hATED Cynthia and her mother. They were unbelievably annoying.
I highly recommend watching the BBC mini series adaptation because the ending is delightful and it's a wonderful adaptation!
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Upon finishing Wives and Daughters, I’m left with one idea – that Elizabeth Gaskell was truly masterful in her writing, and original in how she portrays human nature. It took me a long time to finish this novel, several months, but it was delightful to read because it really is an “everyday” story: there is nothing overly dramatic or stylized here, just the commonplace routines of the inhabitants of a small English town. What really strikes me is how Gaskell portrays character – there are no def ...more
An epic novel of English country life in the 1830s. I loved Molly and most of the people around her. What a talented writer Gaskell was—the characters seem to practically come alive. I’ll definitely read more of her books in the future!
Jul 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. How did I not know about this book sooner? In fact, let's all pause to ponder why authors like the Brontes and Austen get so much love, so much fan fiction . . . where is the Gaskell Society? I mean, here is a mother not unlike Mrs. Bennet, just one step away from having "nerves" and "flutterings" and all the while deeply concerned with . . . well, herself . . . to the point where what her daughters do only matters in how it is an advantage to her. Here is a daughter who doesn't honestly ca ...more
Dec 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
In this beautifully rendered Victorian novel we come to know well various characters living within the mores of their times in a small English village near London. The language and dialogue is exquisite and brings the characters to life. Most of the characters in this novel are beautifully flawed, all in their own distinct ways and in all their complexity and humanity. We follow Molly and her father, Mr. Gibson, who are not flawed in the least, in my opinion. I adored both of them and the love a ...more
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
To be honest, I breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed into my cushions pretty much from the first words, so there wasn’t much of a chance this was going to be a negative review. But she really won me over as soon as she provided me with an excellent audience proxy for me to cast myself as early on- Lady Harriet ftw, am I right?- that reassured me that she and I were on the same side about what was happening. Then I could really get comfortable. Molly is goddamn adorable, Mr. Gibson can have wine ...more
Feb 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
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
Nov 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Whew! Finished! There is noting like not being able to renew a book and having to return it to the library to set a fire under me, which is what I needed with this book. This book was a STRUGGLE for me. I had a really hard time getting into it. It dragged and dragged in the beginning for me. After over 100 pages, it began to become enjoyable but I still had to force myself to read it. Honestly, it wasn't until the Character of Cynthia came into the book, that I began to warm up to the book. This ...more
Trigger warnings: mental health, death of a friend, blackmail??

I love this book a truly unnatural amount. Also, the more I reread it, the more it becomes apparent to me that Molly has some serious depression going on in the second half of the book. And, like, rightly so! She's stuck in the middle of some awful shit. But yeah. It's depression, pure and simple. And that makes me love this just a little bit more than I did before, which I didn't even know was possible. High five from beyon
What a darling book. I loved it. This story takes place during the late 1820's early 1830's, in an English, country, town. It read very easy, was engaging, sprinkled with beautiful descriptions of the era and natural settings, and the characters were so endearing that I was actually moved to tears during parts of the book. I can't help but to compare this novel as a cross between two of my favorite authors, Jane Austen and Jan Karon. Perfect. I would
highly recommend this novel to readers who adm
Gabrielle Dubois
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It’s the first time I read Elisabeth Gaskell. It’s very easy and pleasant to read.

I found it difficult to like the heroine, the little Molly, in the first two chapters. Just a matter of character : I find it difficult to adhere to this kind of fragile and a bit soft natures who are incommoded by a hot English sun of June (hot? in June? in England?... Please, excuse me, English readers : I like England, I lived and worked there for two years… many years ago, and went back there twice with husband
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Reading Recommend...: Growing up without a mom is hard 1 1 Apr 05, 2018 11:47PM  
Victorians!: W&D: Week 3 - Chapers XIV - XX 62 34 Feb 18, 2018 07:06PM  
Victorians!: W&D: Week 4 - Chapters XXI - XXVII 56 34 Feb 11, 2018 06:25PM  
Victorians!: W&D: Week 1 - Chapters I - VII 94 86 Jan 17, 2018 08:08PM  
Victorians!: W&D: Week 2 - Chapers VIII-XIII 62 41 Jan 17, 2018 07:43PM  
Victorians!: W&D: Reading Schedule 39 102 Jan 13, 2018 10:05AM  
Mr. Gibson's past 7 70 Jan 16, 2017 10:13AM  

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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

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