Adult,  Big Book

Wives and Daughters

Elizabeth Gaskell
Set in the watchful society of Hollingford, this is a warm tale of love and longing. Molly Gibson is the spirited, loyal daughter of the local doctor. Their peaceful close-knit home is turned upside down when Molly’s father decides to remarry. Whilst Molly struggles to adjust to her snobbish stepmother, she forms a close relationship with her glamorous new stepsister Cynthia. The strength of this friendship is soon tested as their lives become entwined with Squire Hamley and his two sons.
I have wanted to read this since seeing the brilliant adaptation done by the BBC back in 1999. I have now finally gotten around to it, thanks in no small part to my Kindle, as the book is a real tome and I really appreciated not having to hold all 656 pages that comprise the paperback!
The story follows the life of motherless Molly Gibson as she has to come to terms with her Father’s sudden decision to marry again and the consequences of this. Molly is a kind, caring girl, she loves her father dearly and although he has, for the most part, remarried for Molly’s benefit, his rashness leaves her bewildered and, to begin with at least, very angry. I really liked Molly, she was such an honest person, and so easy to identify with. Who wouldn’t be upset at these changes being thrust upon them, especially as she was without any clue that it was about to happen!
Things are made worse by the fact that the new Mrs Gibson is a vain, inconsiderate and quite selfish woman, far from the ideal step mother Mr Gibson wanted. Molly’s father starts to go out more to escape his new wife, but poor Molly has no such option open to her! Thankfully there is a saving grace in the shape of Cynthia, Molly’s new step sister. She arrives on the scene like a breath of fresh air, standing up to her Mother and providing Molly with a much needed friend and confidante her own age. Cynthia’s sarcasm and bite add a different dimension to the tale, and her relationship with her mother demonstrates that.
However as Cynthia is not just attractive to Molly, but to everyone she meets, including numerous young men, life with her is anything but peaceful. In helping Cynthia deal with the many and various predicaments she finds herself in Molly becomes a focus of gossip herself and jeopardises her own precious reputation. Worst of all however is the dilemma caused by the girls both having romantic attachments to one man. You will have to read the book to find out what happens, or watch it on telly of course! But a note of warning if you go for the book option; Elizabeth Gaskell died before finishing the story! I didn’t know this and wondered why it stopped so abruptly. The ends are pretty much tied up, but you don’t get the satisfaction of actually reading the ‘happy ending’.
Anyone who thinks that classic fiction doesn’t speak of things that we can identify with today should read this! Issues with parents and children, step-families, falling in and out of love, dealing with gossip, the disparity between rich and poor, snobbery, getting mixed up with a scoundrel of a man(!), the list could go on and who doesn’t know someone who has been touched by one of these issues in some way?
There is plenty of gentle humour, a lot of description and a lightly plotted story. You wouldn’t read this expecting a fast paced page turner but it is not a difficult read and there is ample reason to keep reading. It does give a really interesting insight into life in that period.
Verdict: A lovely classic book, great characters to love and hate and an interesting pair of heroine’s!

Publisher: Public Domain Books
Publication Date: July 2003 (new ed.)
Format: eBook
Pages: 866KB
Genre: Classic
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Oldest Book

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