Set in English society before theReform 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 society of Hollingford Wives and Daughters is far than a nostalgic evocation of village life it offers an ironic critique of mid Victorian society No nineteenth century novel contains a devastating rejection than this of the Victorian male assumption of moral authority , writes Pam Morris in her introduction to this new edition, in which she explores the novel s main themes the role of women, Darwinism and the concept of Englishness and its literary and social context 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 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 when reading this story I was rooting for everyone of them, and especially Molly and the Hamley brothers I also really like how Elizabeth Gaskell plays with your mind and makes you think that something really bad is going to happen, and then it turns out to be quite exaggerated While I would have loved for a big twist to set in, I also very much appreciated how the story turned out Molly is a little bit too naive and weak at times which is one of the reasons why this book is not a 5 star read for me, but in the end I can t really put my finger on anything bad about this story Despite its 766 pages, Gaskell keeps it fresh and entertaining throughout, and I loved it for that 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 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, so excited she can hardly sleep the night before This visit won t turn out the way young Molly expected These childhood scenes set the stage and introduce us to many of the characters who will play significant roles later on in the story When Molly is a teenager one of her father s medical students, who boards with the Gibsons, falls in love with her Mr Gibson intercepts the young man s letter confessing his love and promptly ships Molly off to visit another local family and sends the young man away But doing that isn t enough to allay Mr Gibson s concerns, so he turns around and promptly proposes marriage to an attractive local widow who has a daughter Molly s age , thinking a new mum for Molly is the ticket It might have been a good idea to get to know her better before proposing Just sayin.Molly s new stepmother will prove a trial in her life and in Molly s father s life as well, for that matter, although he s better able to deal with the disappointment, mostly by immersing himself further in his medical practice Molly s new stepsister is much easier to get along with, but she ll also eventually end up bringing some serious complications to Molly s life The first two thirds of this novel was mildly enjoyable but didn t really engage me I set the book aside several times while I read other books, without feeling terribly anxious to get back to it Molly is sweet and kind and innocent, but I was getting a little impatient and frustrated with her and the people in her life I seriously thought that I was going to have to rate this book three stars, and all my literary GR friends would be disappointed with me and my lack of taste and discernment and probably unfriend me en masse Luckily for me, I really loved the last part of this book, enough to pull the overall rating up to four stars The characters gradually became very real to me, with their quirks and failings described frankly, but with affectionate humor Especially Mrs Gibson, who sets new standards for bird wittedness and vain self absorption.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 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 spendon your dress than you ought to do It was only five guineas for the whole dress, pleaded Mrs Gibson.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.Onewarning Elizabeth Gaskell suddenly died just before finishing this novel, which was being published on a serial basis in a British magazine There s an afterword by her publisher, explaining what was going to happen in the story, and anyway it s pretty clear where the main relationship is headed, but it still left me with an unsettled feeling enough that I promptly went off on an online search to see if there s any decent fanfic of that last missing chapter Sadly, I didn t find any But watching a YouTube clip of the end of the WD miniseries helped Just be mentally ready for it when you read this book otherwise it s a bit disconcerting 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 girlWives and Daughtersreads 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 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 girlWives and Daughtersreads 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 just annoying and shallow The prince is but a squire, the villain merely ungentlemanly The woods is a friendly lesson in botany, the ball disappointing, the castle entailed, its timber rotting Roses get tossed into the fire, It is Mr Preston, said she, in answer to Molly I shall not dance with him and here go his flowers 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 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 Her wicked characters are presented with enough sympathy that you enjoy them as much as the good ones Take Hyacinth Gibson for example she corresponds somewhat to Mrs Bennet inPride and Prejudice Austen totally denied all sympathy to tedious Mrs Bennet, but Gaskell makes sure we see Hyacinth as a person selfish and shallow but not uninteresting, and not incapable of sincere kindness.And the good characters are flawed sometimes you are not certain to which side they ll land Or where you ll land, given the exasperating qualities some of them have There is mystery too given to these people, hints dropped about things that are not revealed by the author.I am completely in love withWives and Daughters, so take my 5 stars you pretty little thing 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.