This is a wonderfully detailed, scholarly, and readable biography. A great place to start discovering Gaskell and her world. Gaskell is a gossipy, lively, endlessly engaging subject, and Uglow does her full justice.
'Remember, every little, leetle, particular about yourself, and your concerns, and gossipry, and scandal, are most welcome to me, but especially all that interests you, and Elizabeth personally, down to the uninteresting in general basons of tapioca you have at lunch...' - there's Gaskell in a nutshell, in a letter she wrote to her friend in 1831. Everything interests her, from tapioca to scandals, and Uglow shows how she turns all these details of everyday life into fiction; how her interest in the personal feeds into her novel-writing.
What I found particularly engaging about this book was the way in which Uglow takes Gaskell's Unitarian faith seriously, and explains how important Unitarianism was to the nineteenth century. She deftly outlines Gaskell's religion, and her network of Unitarian friends and relatives, bringing out a broader historical context in an absorbing way. This is an excellent introduction to her works, but Uglow's scholarship means it is also a reliable source for those wanting to take their studies further.