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679 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1866
Lady Cumnor: "I was only speaking of the folly of people dressing above their station. — and what must the foolish woman do but begin to justify her own dress, as if I had been accusing her, or even thinking about her at all. Such nonsense! Really, Clare, your husband has spoilt you sadly, if you can't listen to any one without thinking they are alluding to you. People may flatter themselves just as much by thinking that their faults are always present to other people's minds, as if they believe that the world is always contemplating their individual charms and virtues."The strength of this book is in the keenly observed personalities that inhabit the town of Hollingford and this novel. It was rather slow in parts, but overall an enjoyable coming-of-age tale with a little romance, that explores relationships between family members and friends, and how people can hurt and help each other.
"I was told, Lady Cumnor, that this silk was reduced in price. I bought it at Waterloo House after the season was over," said Mrs. Gibson, touching the very handsome gown she wore in deprecation of Lady Cumnor's angry voice, and blundering on to the very source of irritation.
"Again, Clare! How often must I tell you I had no thought of you or your gowns, or whether they cost much or little; your husband has to pay for them, and it is his concern if you spend more on your dress than you ought to do."
"It was only five guineas for the whole dress," pleaded Mrs. Gibson.
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…
'It is Mr. Preston,' said she, in answer to Molly. 'I shall not dance with him; and here go his flowers—'Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell spins this long leisurely tale with such attention to detail, characters, and dialogue that you feel transported to another time and place. And bittersweet it is. Death, blackmail, secret promises, undisclosed marriages, politics, scandal, the worry of money are ever present.
Into the very middle of the embers, which she immediately stirred down upon the beautiful shrivelling petals as if she wished to annihilate them as soon as possible.