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SideRead Gaskell Novel > Wives and Daughters-- Part 1: Chapters 1-10

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message 1: by Rachel, The Honorable Miss Moderator (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 674 comments Mod
Welcome to our discussion of Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters!

This thread is for discussion of the first part, Chapters 1 through 10.

I'll be reading right along with you, so let's get into it and enjoy!


message 2: by Alicia (new)

Alicia I'm putting the sound files on my mp3 player right now, so I can listen to the first 10 chapters this week. I love this book, and am excited about discussing it with you.


message 3: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Yeh, Alicia, back in a Gaskell discussion with you :)


message 4: by Usako (new)

Usako (bbmeltdown) | 226 comments Time to crack open the Kindle and get to reading!

Were we supposed to have Chapters 1-10 done today?


message 5: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (last edited Dec 01, 2010 12:50PM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Tanja, if you want to discuss fewer chapters right now, we'll just remind everyone if you are talking about a spoiler all the way to the end of this section, just mark your comment with ************Spoiler************at the top. Tanja, feel free to only comment on a portion, or anything you would like at this point.

Will that fit with the plan, Rachel?


message 6: by Rachel, The Honorable Miss Moderator (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 674 comments Mod
Sure does, Sarah!

Tanja, we are simply discussing those chapters now--feel free to read them at your own pace!


message 7: by Amalie (last edited Dec 02, 2010 05:53AM) (new)

Amalie I simply loved the opening. It's more or less like the beginning of Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" the setting is brought out quite interestingly almost like a camera moving through Gibson's house and reaching Molly's room. It's imaginative, you feel like you are inside the house.

I like Gaskell's language. It's really cozy, like you are wrapped up in a warm blanket and drinking hot tea.


message 8: by Usako (new)

Usako (bbmeltdown) | 226 comments I must prepare some hot chocolate tonight and snuggle up to some W&D Chapters.


message 9: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Amalie wrote: "I simply loved the opening. It's more or less like the beginning of Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" the setting is brought out quite interestingly almost like a camera moving through Gibson's house..."

Amalie,

I like the way the story is introduced too. She was a talented author to be able to create the different, separate types of novels, but yet not make them seem forced to be different. This is only my third, but it does seem to be in a category apart from the novel North and South (industrial society) and also from the Cranford Chronicles (although the townspeople do seem Cranford-like).

It was a very good description of Molly as a child, what happens on her day at The Towers, and also the backstory of Mr. Gibson.


message 10: by Manda (new)

Manda (pemberliegh) | 96 comments Amalie wrote: "I like Gaskell's language. It's really cozy, like you are wrapped up in a warm blanket and drinking hot tea."

I totally agree. As soon as I started this book I remembered why I enjoyed it so much the first time; her writing is so friendly and inviting.

Having said that, I do find sometimes that her people read more like caricatures of the Dickensian variety. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, I like Dickens, but it makes it more difficult for me to take them seriously when they behave just a touch outside what is realistic. Most of me is reading along, perfectly content, but then there is this little corner of my brain cocking its head to the side and asking, really?

On the other hand, and also in a similar fashion to Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell has a lot to say. The story is basically an entertaining way to express her opinion and maybe start a dialogue about things that mattered to her like parenting, education, politics of the day, etc. So she bends her characters and exaggerates their behaviour to that end. I can appreciate that.


message 11: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
As a lover of Dickens' writing, I know pretty much what you are talking about -- but of course, I love Dickens, so I love this type of writing. It is realism to the core, but also his world is filled in with exceptional characters of all types. But then, my world seems to be filled in with these types too, when I think of it -- people doing actually outrageous things quite often and as if they are quite normal things.

Do you have any examples in this discussion section of the Gaskell characters that don't sit so comfortably with you? I think it will be a good ongoing part of the discussion to see who we identify with the most and who in the story seems to be too far afield. Great point, Manda.


message 12: by Manda (last edited Dec 02, 2010 10:00AM) (new)

Manda (pemberliegh) | 96 comments SarahC wrote: "Do you have any examples in this discussion section of the Gaskell characters that don't sit so comfortably with you? I think it will be a good ongoing part of the discussion to see who we identify with the most and who in the story seems to be too far afield."

Thanks! Sadly, I don't have the book with me at present, but I will be sure to update as soon as I can with specifics.

In a general sense, it is a lack of dimensionality and an exaggeration of what we find in the people around us. They are like the epitome of fill-in-the-blank: jocular country gentleman, condescending lady, self-serving social climber - whatever is that characters archetype. I do not mean to say that people don't behave in ridiculous ways and have peculiar personality traits, of course they do, but overall people are more than the sum of the archetype and we don't really get to see that here.

As a side note, I really do like Dickens and am slowly working my way through his body of work. My favorite so far is Nicholas Nickleby; next in my Dickens queue is Little Dorrit. I like his stories, they are classics for a reason. I also admire how he brought focus to serious and uncomfortable issues that most people were either ignorant of or apathetic about.


message 13: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
We may agree on Dickens, but disagree on Gaskell -- we will see as the discussion progresses! haha


message 14: by Robin (new)

Robin (goodreadscomtriviagoddessl) Manda, I agree with you in regards to Dickens, I am reading Bleak House and I tried Little Dorrit as well, but Dickens does highlight the abusiveness of the brickbuilder's wife, and also Mr. Skimpole, who is treated like a child. I have to get my copy of Wives and Daughters.


message 15: by Manda (new)

Manda (pemberliegh) | 96 comments SarahC wrote: "We may agree on Dickens, but disagree on Gaskell -- we will see as the discussion progresses! haha"

Please don't take it as a criticism of Gaskell! I like this book, read it once several years ago, thumbs up, and thoroughly enjoyed the BBC adaptation. This is just a general observation. In the larger scope of the novel, the characters as written serve the story on the surface and the social commentary in the subtext. It is well done and her writing style is very inviting.

I might contrast Gaskell's characters with those of Austen and how Austen's characters follow many of the basic rules of human psychology so well that I was able to use my psych major background in a lit class to write a paper in college titled 'Jane Austen: Observational Psychologist, or The Connoisseur of Human Folly.' Take a character like Darcy, seen as stuck-up on first acquaintance (and he is a bit), but we see later that a lot of that is shyness, too. He can be a pompous, judgemental jerk, but then we also see how sweet he is with his sister. We learn that he has a teasing sense of humor and is fiercly loyal/protective under that fastidious surface. He has a lot of depth.

I don't get that kind of depth as much from Gaskell's characters. However, that doesn't make it unpleasant or wrong. It works for her. I still snuggle down, cat laying somewhere on my person, and lose myself in the pleasure of reading - more than one way to fry an egg, etc.


message 16: by Manda (new)

Manda (pemberliegh) | 96 comments Robin wrote: "Manda, I agree with you in regards to Dickens, I am reading Bleak House and I tried Little Dorrit as well, but Dickens does highlight the abusiveness of the brickbuilder's wife, and also Mr. Skimp..."

Do! Do! I would say that Dickens is more intense just becuase he is really highlighting some of the worst conditions and behavior from his personal experiences. You'll have to let us know if you see any similarity in the depiction of her characters. Or maybe it's just me... :)


message 17: by Amalie (last edited Dec 03, 2010 04:03AM) (new)

Amalie I'm new to Gaskell but once I started to read, I felt Elizabeth Gaskell is less well-known than she deserves (well, may be it's only me, but I knew her only as a friend of Charlotte Brontë and her biographer:)) She has a unique style. Her narration is fairy tale like on the surface but there is realism beneath. I call that's 'talent'. Perhaps she may not have Jane Austen's wit or Dickens style but she does bring out a lot with strong characters and a vivid setting.


message 18: by Megan (last edited Dec 03, 2010 10:34AM) (new)

Megan I am new to Gaskell also. Not very far in the book but I enjoy her writing style. It is very "comfortable" and it sucks one into her world immediately. And in that world, there are lots of layers.


message 19: by Alicia (new)

Alicia I agree that Dickens' characters are exaggerated, but I don't think Gaskell's are exaggerated. The Browning sisters and Lord and Lady Cumnor may seem like the typical village spinsters and local gentry we have read about in many other books, but I think they act in ways that are consistent with the way the real people I know behave. I think Gaskell is making fun of them a little. (Jane Austen does that too.) The Brownings are developed more through the book. The Cumnors are minor characters, but I don't think they're caricatures; I think they're as rounded as they need to be for their role in the book. I think all the major characters in the story are very well-developed and very real.

Like some of you, I was struck and charmed by the old-fashionedness of the writing at the very beginning of the story- the introduction of Molly.

There was another thing that really struck me as I listened to the first chapter. I had thought that Wives and Daughters was not written with the view of promoting social and political reforms in the way that North and South was, that it was just a pleasant little story taking place in a village. (I think I read that Gaskell described it that way.) But she certainly isn't hiding her opinions! She makes them very clear as she describes the relations between Lord and Lady Cummnor's family and the people of the town.


message 20: by Rachel, The Honorable Miss Moderator (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 674 comments Mod
I'm like you all--I think the way Gaskell opened the novel (with the gradual leading down to Molly) was cute. I also think all the layers are coming along nicely--Molly's relationship with her father and his possible remarriage, the various neighborhood families, a couple of romantic prospects for Molly. I am definitely eager to keep reading! I also love that Gaskell did a little shout out to her friend Charlotte Bronte by naming Molly's governess Miss Eyre. :)


message 21: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (last edited Dec 03, 2010 06:24PM) (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
I thought that name sounded familiar -- ha ha -- good observation -- and another favorite novel :)

There was just something about those opening events that I don't even understand why I liked them so well. I think because I felt I was anticipating for Molly. I was feeling motherly for her, especially after her experience at The Towers when she was 12.

Then the introduction and growing to be a part of the family at the Hamleys was such a relief in a way. Of course, they have their own problems, but they are kind to her. I think I like the "pace" of the Hamley part of the story.

Now her father, he makes me a little nervous. He certainly flew into action over the possible suitor living in the same house with them. He seems protective, which I suppose is kind of what sets much of the story in motion. I feel it will have its upside and downside!


message 22: by SarahC, Austen Votary & Mods' Asst. (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 1473 comments Mod
Alicia, the Cumnors and Lady Cumnor and her technical school. I see what you mean, describing this very fine school they have set up, but of course it is a self-serving kind of place for the upper crust -- to train up good hired help! I do think though -- maybe? -- that the townswomen doing the regular visits I guess to encourage things and keep an eye on the school is a unifying thing in a way. Sort of the circle of how the town worked. The town ladies playing their role and at least getting the "day of thanks" for their token efforts. And the town overall may have liked this "technical school" because I suppose it made some young girls employable who needed to be.


message 23: by Amalie (last edited Dec 05, 2010 02:27AM) (new)

Amalie Miss Eyre! LOL :D Yes, that's a hello to Charlotte. I'm a huge fan of Brontes. Still I must say, I've read somewhere Gaskell forbade her daughter to read Jane Eyre because she thought it was "racy" though I'm not sure whether she is too young to read it.

About Mr. Gibson? In third chapter it says "Mr Gibson did not speak much about the grief at the loss of his wife, which it is to be supposed that he felt" Isn't that a suggestion of he indeed, did not feel the loss/ didn't love his wife?

I thought perhaps Gaskell is showing the limited opportunities women had during her time by detailing the "industrial" learning for girls. I felt sorry for Mrs. Kirkpatrick's condition, the fact that they still call her Clare. I know one of the key themes addressed by Brontes' is the invisibility of governesses, experience from real life. Even here it seems Mrs. Kirkpatrick will always be "clare' to them, may be it's a result of the habit or perhaps they are not bothered to care.

Lady Cuxhaven, who had had a much more comfortable living, says, seems older than Mrs. Kirkpatrick which perhaps an indication that she is also prittier. Then she becomes a wife of a poor curate, then in North and South we have a clergyman and his family and Gaskell was also a wife of a clergyman. Interesting how they bring out their real lives into fiction.


message 24: by Rachel, The Honorable Miss Moderator (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 674 comments Mod
Yes, the school and the yearly ritual of looking it over was interesting to me as well. As Molly doesn't have to attend it, I wonder how much it will appear in the rest of the novel.

I felt for Mrs. Kirkpatrick as well, though her thoughts about being much more comfortable if she married again were a tad mercenary to me.

*******bit of a SPOILER below*********

Aside from the opening oversleeping epsiode at the Towers, the bit I like best of this opening section is the reveal to Molly of her father's remarriage and the fallout of that. She reacts in a typically only-child, teenager-ish way, and I think Roger is sweet as he tried to cheer her up.

We'll have to see what develops later!


message 25: by Manda (new)

Manda (pemberliegh) | 96 comments Disclaimer: Before you read on, remember that I like this book. I like the style of writing. I find it very engaging and even soothing, for the most part.

But, asked for specifics: I think the parts that stuck out most as character exaggerations for me were Lord Cumnor and his high frequency ADHD. That scene where he first meets up with Molly and her dad and he can't even stay on a sentance. I have known several people with ADD/ADHD and this seemed over the top even compared to them - and they were pretty extreme. The second was how overly delicate Molly is when she first meets Mrs. Kirkpatrick and then when she cries herself to physical weakness when she learns of her dad's engagement. I mean, I get the upset bit, but...

My observation is not so much that the characters are doing things that normal people don't do or wouldn't feel, but that sometimes they are a little over-the-top in the expression of them. Melodramatic? Is that what I'm getting at? Or maybe I just have a low threshhold for this. I don't know.

Like I said before, even though the characters sometimes are a bit much for me, I am still really enjoying this book. Gaskell has a lot to offer: great writing style, interesting sociopolitical commentary, little inside jokes (As did many of you, I also appreciated the Miss Eyre reference. Fantastic).


message 26: by Amalie (last edited Dec 07, 2010 05:09AM) (new)

Amalie Rachel wrote: "Yes, the school and the yearly ritual of looking it over was interesting to me as well. As Molly doesn't have to attend it, I wonder how much it will appear in the rest of the novel.

I felt for M..."


Speaking of Roger, I think the looks of the actor who plays Roger is pretty accurate with Roger description in chapter 3. Even if I've not seen the mini series, his appearence will match with the image I have in my head.


message 27: by Rachel, The Honorable Miss Moderator (new)

Rachel (randhrshipper1) | 674 comments Mod
Amalie wrote: "Rachel wrote: "Yes, the school and the yearly ritual of looking it over was interesting to me as well. As Molly doesn't have to attend it, I wonder how much it will appear in the rest of the novel...."

Ohhh, that's good to know about the miniseries--I can't wait to watch it!

Now that I've finished this section, I have to say I like Mrs. Kirkpatrick even less now, with the way she's handling the wedding plans and interacting with Molly--not rude at all but a bit phony. I think Dr. Gibson is going to have a bit of a rough time ahead!


message 28: by Alicia (new)

Alicia I think Dr. Gibson is going to have a bit of a rough time ahead!

He was in a hurry to get a wife. She was appropriate in age and station, and had good connections--the Cumnor family. Her reputation was good, and she was pretty and had good manners. Too bad he didn't take the time to get to know her better and find out what her mind was like. You can't blame her for jumping at the opportunity to be relieved of her financial difficulties.


reply | flag *


message 29: by Shaun (new)

Shaun | 123 comments Rachel wrote: "Amalie wrote: "Rachel wrote: "Yes, the school and the yearly ritual of looking it over was interesting to me as well. As Molly doesn't have to attend it, I wonder how much it will appear in the re..."

Hey Rachel, I am a little late, but I have to say that I don't like Mrs. Kirkpatrick either! We already had a taste of her when Molly was left back at the Towers and now, she's going to be Mrs. Gibson!


message 30: by Megan (new)

Megan Mrs. Kirkpatrick is quite something. Reminds one of Wickham....


message 31: by Amalie (last edited Dec 28, 2010 12:37AM) (new)

Amalie Ok here it is,

Doesn't anyone else see the hints that Mr Gibson may not have loved his wife. There a reference in the 3rd chapter as I've mentioned eariler (message 23) and there's one in 5th as well.

"...to be sure - poor Jeanie was not so old, and how I did love her! ( Mrs Gibson's name was Mary, so he must have been referring to someone else...)


I really feel for Roger who seems to be forever shaded by his brother's shadow, always to be compared to his elder brother. Both parents have highest expectations for the elder child, praise him every so often but they seem to pay a very little attention for their second son. I don't know how the story will progress but I like Gaskell trying to show the side of a second son, whose must make his way in the world, will inherit a very little, and must find a wife with a 'fair' inheritance rather than for love. We see how that effect characters like Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre) and Col. Brandon in Sense and Sensibility?(I think he couldn't marry his father's ward because she was poor) I'm not so familar with Victorian lit but I'm sure there are plenty of examples.

And I think their painting, which is shown to Molly tell us about their characters. Roger is an outdoor person which goes well with his future profession. Also as Rachel as mentioned earlier, Roger trying to comfort Molly is really nice and proper, it does show their mutual understanding.

*About Mrs. Kirkpatrick, No! I don't like her now either, but she's entertaining though wanting others to call her Hyacinth. I thought it's hilarious I think her need and means to get away from the 'governess' image is a bit much and almost ridiculous. I don't remember the movie so well and yet to read the rest but I hope she'll not get evil because right now she's quite something.


message 32: by Shaun (new)

Shaun | 123 comments I have to agree with that. I did like Gaskell introducing us to Roger in person, since we have heard so much about his elder brother. I do like how she is pretty subtle with her characters thoughts. Molly is such an interesting character as well!


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