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Wives and Daughters (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) Paperback – March 3, 2005

207 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1593082574 ISBN-10: 1593082576 Edition: Later Printing

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Editorial Reviews


Novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, first published serially in the Cornhill Magazine (August 1864-January 1866) and then in book form in 1866; it was unfinished at the time of her death in November 1865. Known as her last, longest, and perhaps finest work, it concerns the interlocking fortunes of several families in the country town of Hollingford. Wives and Daughters chronicles the maturation of Molly Gibson, a sincere young woman whose widowed father, the town doctor, marries Hyacinth Kirkpatrick, a charming but petty widow and former governess in the household of Lord Cumnor. Although Molly resents her stepmother, she befriends her stepsister Cynthia, who is secretly engaged to Lord Cumnor's land agent, Mr. Preston. Molly is warmly received at the home of Squire Hamley and his disabled wife. The Hamleys' two sons are Osborne, a clever but shallow man who marries unwisely and dies young, and Roger, an honest scientist who eventually marries Molly after being engaged to Cynthia, who ultimately weds a London barrister. --The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

About the Author

Elizabeth Gaskell was born in London in 1810 but spent most of her life in Cheshire, Stratford-upon-Avon. She married the Reverend William Gaskell and had four daughters by him. She worked among the poor, travelled frequently and wrote for Dickens' magazine Household Words. Mrs Gaskell was friends with Charlotte Bronte, and consquently went on to write her biography. Patricia Ingham is a fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford, and has written widely on the Victorian novel. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Barnes & Noble Classics
  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble Classics; Later Printing edition (March 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593082576
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593082574
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (207 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,335,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

80 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Snork Maiden on May 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
What is up with all the reviews that compare Mrs. Gaskell unfavorably to Jane Austen? Jane Austen is wonderful, but she works in miniature, and even her major characters are often one-dimensional. Who can really visualize Mr. Darcy? It is true that Mrs. Gaskell can be as satirical as Austen when she wants to be, but even her most vain or vicious characters are human beings, with complex feelings and good impulses as well as bad. And then there's the incredible sweep of this novel, the way in which Gaskell manages to portray an entire community without losing her lightness of touch. The only novel I can think of to compare this to is Eliot's Middlemarch, and I'm still not sure which I think is better.

There are so many instances in which Gaskell could have taken the easy way out and didn't. Take the two pairs of characters, Molly and Cynthia and Roger and Osborne. Osborne is thought to be more brilliant than Roger; Cynthia is more beautiful and less moral than Molly. It would be so easy for Gaskell to make Cynthia the evil stepsister, and Osborne the dissolute brother you love to hate. Yet Cynthia and Osborne are both sympathetic despite their faults, and both are even more complex, more finely drawn, than Roger and Molly. There are plenty of novels in which a character exerts a fascination over everyone he/she meets, and usually the fascination is completely lost on the reader. Cynthia has this fascination, and for once it is completely convincing. We understand why Molly can't help loving Cynthia, even while Cynthia is blithely taking Roger away from her. And Cynthia is self-aware; she knows that she can't bear to have people not think well of her, and she knows this is a fault.
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77 of 81 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 13, 1999
Format: Paperback
In her last novel, Gaskell avoided her usual urban milieu to concentrate instead on the wonderful parochial doings of a country village in the mid-Victorian period. Although she left the novel without its very last chapter before she died, this should not dissuade you from reading the novel: you'll know by the end exactly where Gaskell was going to finish the book and what would've happened to all the characters.
WIVES AND DAUGHTERS is frequently compared to Austen, but it is very different; the comedy and social observation is marvelous, but there's a greater sense of despair here more akin to MIDDLEMARCH. Hyacinth is without question the single most complex and engrossing character Gaskell ever created, and despite her menadacity and her manipulativeness you can't help but feel fond of her in spite of her less attractive qualities. Her daughter Cynthia is nearly as fine a character, and the others are also topnotch. A delightful read.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Austentatious on February 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
Having read and reread Austen and the Bronte sisters, and looking to branch out to new authors while still staying in the general time period and genre, my sister recommended Wives and Daughters. I had never heard of Elizabeth Gaskell---but what a treasure to discover! My husband bought me the book for my birthday, worried that because it was an unfinished novel I would be disappointed. Hardly! I couldn't put the book down. I fell in love with all of Hollingford and its people, especially young Molly Gibson, as constant in her character as Cynthia is changeable but both equally likeable and more importantly, believable. Mrs. Gaskell was able to show us where the novel was headed or, I should say, where Molly was headed matrimonially, and though it is something to mourn that the conclusion could not be written in Mrs. Gaskell's own words, I would still recommend the read. AND the DVD which is so true to the book (Justine Waddell makes a perfect Molly), even while leaving out Molly's extended illness toward the end. Definitely one I recommend.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Celina V. Sconochini on August 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed reading this book and I highly recommend it to any one who wants to read a well written and sweet novel. The principal character is Molly Gibson who is the daughter of a small town doctor. The story is mainly about what happens with Molly and those she loves when her father remarries and his new wife and stepdaughter come to live with him and Molly. The story is simple, but at the same time enchanting. Mrs. Gaskell's excellent writing will keep you reading even though some parts of the story are full with details and past stories of the characters. But at the same time, it is these background stories and details which allow the reader to really understand who each character is in the story and how they feel. So I don't don't agree with those who sugget that the book needs editing.

The novel is full with very interesting characters and all are presented in a way you'll end up feeling close to them, and caring for them. Even Mrs. Gibson and Lady Cumnor, who are mean and selfish, will claim your sympathy at some point because the author has the ability to present her characters not as good or bad, but just as human. She has an incredible way of describing regular people. And only this characteristic makes the book very enjoyable.

The book is long and does not have an ending... nonetheless, it is so beautiful!!!... I really recommend this novel because you'll never get bored. Even more, you'll learn to enjoy each of the things and stories that are going on in Hollingford (the little town where Molly lives)!. And although this is not an "addictive" reading, there are some parts in the novel where you cannot stop reading and for a hundred pages you won't be able to put it down. I think this is a novel to enjoy, not to read in an afternoon.
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