Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

Hi, guys. So here I am, doing what I said I would do--totally failing at updating the blog during my busy school semester (my last one!). I'm not going to promise that I'll be any better over the next few months when I'll be graduating and having a baby, but I will try when I can, since I've been reading so many books. The reviews will probably be rather belated, like this one, and might not be very good or very long, but I want to try to stay a part of this great book-blog community! 

I knew without a doubt I would love this book. And I wasn't disappointed.

Ever since reading North and South, I've been dying to read more Gaskell. And I'd heard wonderful things about Wives and Daughters, so that was my next pick.

Of course, then life happened and other books got in the way and I didn't actually end up reading it until nearly two years after reading N&S. But even with all the expectations that built up in those two years, Wives and Daughters still gave me all the wonderful, good-book feelings I knew it would.

With this sort of book, it's hard to know exactly what to say. I could talk about the issues it deals with in 19th-century English society--the class problems, the gender issues, the rise of naturalism, etc.--but that would make the book seem more like a relic of purely historical interest than a real classic. I could wax poetic about the timeless themes of love, loss, marriage, sisterhood, friendship, family, duty, right and wrong, and plenty of others--but that's all been done before, by people who are much more poetic than I am.

I guess the best I can do, as usual, is talk about my experience with this book. I loved that it managed to talk about issues of value without becoming depressing. In fact, the book felt pretty cheerful to me, despite poor Molly constantly facing more and more obstacles to her happiness, and frustrating Mrs. Gibson constantly thinking only of herself. I also loved, as I always do, how there were really no "good" characters or "bad" characters--just people with their human weaknesses (except maybe Molly--she was pretty much just good). There were several characters that were frustrating, but they were also sympathetic. I could muster a little sympathy even for Mrs. Gibson, although she was pretty darn annoying.

Probably the one character that I had very little sympathy for was Osbourne. I liked Osbourne even less than I liked Mrs. Gibson, possibly because he was so well-liked and he didn't deserve to be, in my opinion. I did sympathize with him on occasion, but he was always so frustrating to read about.

One huge disappointment that I wasn't at all aware of before reading this book was that Gaskell was never able to completely finish it. The editor of Cornhill, in which the novel was published, basically told us what she was planning to write, but of course it wasn't nearly as satisfying as reading Gaskell's actual words. Boo! But the story had been mostly wrapped up by that point, thankfully.

I don't know how to end this other than to say that it was simply a really lovely book, and I adored it.


  1. I really enjoyed your review, Emily! I didn't know that the novel was unfinished, which probably explains the wimpy ending to the BBC movie (which was excellent, BTW!). I haven't read this book yet, but I'm so looking forward to it. If you're looking for another Gaskell, I really enjoyed Ruth. It certainly wasn't uplifting but it was lovely in its own right. Cranford was fun, too! I think we both have the same admiration for Gaskell!

  2. I love Gaskell's novels as well! It's sad that this book is unfinished; I definitely agree that it's not nearly as satisfying reading what Gaskell planned to write. As Cleopatra said, the BBC adaptation is also excellent. :)

  3. I'm glad you enjoyed the book! I liked to hate Mrs Gibson and to struggle with the desire to pinch Osbourne in the face when I read it. Wonderful characters!

  4. I didn't know she never finished it! I love North and South, but Cranford was kind of boring so I haven't picked up W&D yet. I will someday, though.

    You are in a busy and wonderful chapter of life! Check in when you can and the rest of us will be happy to see you. (Plus we're going to need baby pictures...)

  5. I'm in the middle of North and South, but I can't help loving it! I'll probably read this one next, and I had no idea it was unfinished!