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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Near perfection!
This is mostly a character-driven story, but that's not to undermine the skill employed to carry the plot along. Like a finely crafted tapestry, if you imagine each event being a carefully placed stich, leading on to the next stich and the next, until you get the bigger picture.
Each event, no matter how seemingly insignificant, turns out to be vital to move the...
Published on 21 Jun 2004

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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Warning - Book with no ending!!!!
Well I was looking forward to this book. Its long but I kept going for the week with it and was enjoying it. But after reading about 580 pages I came to the end. Not of the story but of the book. She died without completing it. No where does it say this on this web site nor on the blurb on the back cover. Now I've read unfinished books of authors I like before but I like...
Published on 24 May 2009 by S. L. Addy


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67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Near perfection!, 21 Jun 2004
By A Customer
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This is mostly a character-driven story, but that's not to undermine the skill employed to carry the plot along. Like a finely crafted tapestry, if you imagine each event being a carefully placed stich, leading on to the next stich and the next, until you get the bigger picture.
Each event, no matter how seemingly insignificant, turns out to be vital to move the story along, and shape the fate of its characters. If Mr.Gibson's apprentice, young Mr.Coxe, hadn't have been infatuated with his daughter, would she have been sent to the Hamley's or would her father have remarried at all? So each subtle device is used to great effect, with little wastage.
Even though I knew the plot, vaguely, from the TV series, knew what was going to happen, I still felt emotionally unprepared for the one or two tragedies. It's fair to say that it brought tears to my eyes. Nor was I prepared for the humour in the story.
Gaskell's triumph, above all, must lay in the skilled portrayal of her characters. Cynthia, in particular, is not an easy character to analyse, yet Gaskell has managed to create this girl; beautiful but deeply flawed, that despite all her failings, we still care about.
The great tragedy is that Gaskell died before the novel's completion. We know what is about to happen, some of the loose ends have already been tied up, but the main one, the one we all yearn for is the final chapter that is missing. In it's way, this immortalises the novel like the untimely death of a rock star. The publisher's moving notes at the end, explaining how Gaskell intended the novel to finish are a fitting tribute and finish to the book. The book carries you tantalisingly to the conclusion, we can only dream and use our imaginations as to how Gaskell would have expressed it. Which unintentionally, adds to its perfections!
With a cast of memorable characters; from the lowly Miss.Brownings to the upper-crust family at the Towers, with the brash but likeable Lady Harriet; and an intricately woven plot, little criticism can be levelled at 'Wives and Daughters'.
A satisfying read that I, for one, will probably return to again.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, sensitive and witty classic, 10 Jan 2006
By 
Star_Sea "Xing" (Salisbury, England) - See all my reviews
If you've seen the adaptation of this neglected classic, then you'll already know the storyline. Suffice to say that the book is even better, because it fleshes out more of the secondary characters, such as Lady Harriet, the Squire and Lady Hamley. What makes the book such a delight to read is Gaskell's knowledge of human nature. One feels that Gaskell is a little like Roger, putting each character under the microscope, but analysing each fault kindly. The only character who doesn't get much sympathy is Mr. Preston, which is not surprising after what he does.
The relationships between family are what really power this book, especially that between Cynthia and Molly, the two opposites. Cynthia is inconstant and immoral, but she knows it, and also knows that's how she will always be: this is what makes her modern. One of the best speeches in the book is when she says to Molly "Don't you see that I've gone beyond the realm of 'ought' and 'shan't'...? Love me as I am, sweet one, for I shall never be better." Molly, in contrast, is totally unaware and has to learn to recognise herself and her feelings. But I don't think you can find her boring: anyone who has ever felt shy or been ignored in favour of someone who is better at adapting to society will sympathise with Molly. She endures her stepmother's meddling as best she can, and even when the town turns against her, she keeps her head high. It is a shame that Gaskell died before writing Molly's natural reward, but we have the television series for that.
I would recommend this for anyone who likes a study of human nature: Gaskell is as insightful as Austen and Hardy, but far more tolerant.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic favourite, 29 Mar 2005
By 
Mrs. D. J. Smith "eowyngreenleaf" (Luton, England) - See all my reviews
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I've now read W&D several times, and it has become one of my favourite books. There's something about it that reminds me a little of both 'Emma' and 'Mansfield Park'. Molly Gibson is a sympathetic heroine, generally quiet and modest, devoted to her father, but not afraid to stand up for herself when required. The book is set nearly 200 years ago, but the characters are so beautifully drawn and you feel you know people like Cynthia Kirkpatrick and Mr and Mrs Gibson in real life. Not wishing to give too much away, but the plot revolves around Molly Gibson and the second marriage of her father to Hyacinth Kirkpatrick (nee Clare), which brings Molly a dazzling step-sister in the shape of Cynthia Kirkpatrick. The fortunes of the family are tied up with not only the town of Hollingford in which they live and which is inhabited by the spinster sisters, the Miss Brownings and twice-widowed Mrs Goodenough, but the Earl and Countess and Lady Harriet at Cumnor Towers and the family of Hamley at Hamley Hall.
If there is a disappointment in W&D it is that it is unfortunately unfinished. Another chapter would probably have done it, but unfortunately Mrs Gaskell died before its completion. You can pretty much guess at what is going to happen, and the note from the editor of Cornhill magazine enlarged upon Mrs Gaskell's plans. If you are truly unsatisfied with the abrupt breaking off of the story, could I point you in the direction of the BBC TV version? It's very faithful too the book, although I think Osborne Hamley is made more sympathetic, and gives a satisfactory conclusion to the piece, even if not quite what may have been intended.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant surprise, 8 Aug 2001
By A Customer
This book was recommended by a friend but I started with some trepidation having failed to get through North and South some time before. I was delighted with what I found and read the book with increasing involvement. Molly jumped out of the pages at me and I cried and thrilled along with her. Aside from the main plot I also found it gave a wonderful sense of its time, the constrictions on young women, as well as their delights. I would recommend it to anyone, particularly those who enjoy Jane Austen's style and subject matter.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything you'd expect from a period drama., 5 April 2001
By A Customer
When presented with this book one Christmas i never thought i would enjoy it as much as i have. Wives and Daughters is one of those books that no matter how hard you try you just can't stop reading, as soon as i put it down i found myself picking it up again wanting to know what would happen next. There are so many points in the book where you will find your self either smiling with happiness or crying due to sad farewells to some of the best loved characters. However by the end of the book you will have forgotten all the problems endured by characters along the way and you'll find yourself once again smiling as, just like in all the best books, when at the last moment just as everything seems to be going wrong something happens that makes it an almost entirely happy ending and one where you will find yourself by the end wishing you were in the position of 'little Molly Gibson.'
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Warning - Book with no ending!!!!, 24 May 2009
By 
S. L. Addy (West Sussex, UK) - See all my reviews
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Well I was looking forward to this book. Its long but I kept going for the week with it and was enjoying it. But after reading about 580 pages I came to the end. Not of the story but of the book. She died without completing it. No where does it say this on this web site nor on the blurb on the back cover. Now I've read unfinished books of authors I like before but I like to know they are unfinished BEFORE I start reading. I'm not saying don't read it, just only buy this book with your eyes open so you will not suffer the same frustration as me!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it., 18 Feb 2012
What a shame she did not live to finish it. Good to have an author who thinks of women as real people.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and underrated, 3 Dec 2011
By 
Stracs "Stracs" (Leeds, UK) - See all my reviews
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I am a relative newcomer to Elizabeth Gaskell's work, having only read North and South previously, but this excellent book has cemented her as one of my all time favourite authors. This novel is undoubtedly her masterpiece. It achieves much and thoughts of it stay with you for a long time after you have put it down. Gaskell captures both the human experience and the beautiful settings of English country life superbly. The story is really character driven and the plot is fairly simple, but through the characters I was drawn into the world she describes, as she introduces the lives of the people of all rank/class in rural Hollingford.

The heroine and central character is the teenage Molly Gibson, who has grown up almost unnoticed with her father, a highly regarded doctor in the rural village of Hollingford. We find her initially an awkward young girl, over-protected by her father. She finds love and acceptance with the Hamley family, whom she is sent to by her father when a young man first shows interest in her. Molly's father remarries suddenly with the aim of providing a new mother and protector for Molly, and along with the new mother comes a stepsister, the neglected and, as a consequence, cold-hearted Cynthia. The story which follows charts beautifully the life of the now very familiar blended family, and the tests and traumas of two very different young women trying to find their way in the world.

The beginning of the story was a little slow for me, and the first two or three chapters had me concerned that this would not live up to the high hopes I had after the wonderful North and South. However, once we reach the teenage Molly the story really kicks in. Molly is going through the process of becoming a woman, and much of the story tells of things hidden in her life and those around her. Strengths, flaws, mistakes, successes, relationships and love are revealed in this rich, detailed and compelling story story.

The wonderfully crafted writing of the story sets it apart from most other literature. Gaskell is very readable, with a light touch which still suits the modern literary taste, and a respect for how real life happens which prevents her work becoming sensationalised and "soapy". The people simply live, make mistakes and sacrifices, and Gaskell charts delightfully how all of this makes her individual characters feel. The characters here are really brilliantly drawn. I cant think of one character who I disliked or didn't feel I could relate with to at least some degree. Even those who are technically the villains of the piece are so well developed that they are eminently human, believeable and utterly real.

It is such a tragedy that Gaskell didn't live to complete this novel. Dont be put off reading Wives and Daughters for this reason, you will be much the richer if you do read it. The novel is only missing one or two chapters and Gaskell's publisher completes the story in a short tribute chapter at the end, where they relate what Gaskell's intentions for the last chapters were. It is a real shame that we do not get to read how her skillful pen would have finished the story, but in terms of the story we miss little. It does not prevent this novel being a classic of the highest order, which I will certainly re-read, and which I feel much the richer for having read. As a study of human nature, family life and a simpler time now lost to us, there is nothing better. Please, please read this - you wont regret it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review from "My Love Affair With Books", 2 July 2011
This review is from: Wives and Daughters (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Molly Gibson has always been satisfied to live with just her father in the quiet country town of Hollingford. As Molly tends to Squire Hamley's sick wife, she becomes closer to the Hamleys than she has been to anyone, except her father. However, her life turns upside down when her father decides to remarry. The former Mrs Kirkpatrick takes over her life as she tries to infuse some of the new styles of the society into the quiet lives of the Gibsons. When her daughter, the beautiful, Cynthia comes to stay with them, Molly forms a close bond with her new step-sister, which would have been closer still if Cynthia did not insist on being so secretive about her past. On the other hand, the situation at Hamley Hall seems to be going from bad to worse.

Before reading this book, I had just seen the BBC adaption of North And South by the same author, which I loved immensely. Still, I doubted that I would like reading any of Mrs Gaskell's novels. After reading Wives And Daughters I stand corrected. I have never enjoyed reading a classic as much as I did this one. The writer draws the reader into the story and binds them to it till the very end. While reading Wives And Daughter I was surprised to notice some similarities in our time and theirs even though this book is set almost a century and half before. The craze to be dressed in the latest fashion, the gossip about who is going about with whom and relishing in the scandals involving other people- maybe these things will always remain the same no matter what the time period. Other than that it was interesting to see the characters talking about inventions and discoveries that were yet to be. This book is set in a time when many changes were impending to happen, both in the scientific community and the aristocratic one. The effects of these impending changes on both the communities are beautifully interwoven into the book by the author.

When we first meet Molly she is just twelve and with the all the innocence of a child living a simple and happy life with her father. The next time we meet her, the time has fast-forwarded and Molly has become a young woman of seventeen yet apparently still as innocent and nave as a child under the protected care of her father. However, we see her change slowly into a responsible woman after her step-sister, Cynthia comes in her life. Molly becomes the one who cleans up the mess created by Cynthia. Maybe I would have liked Molly to be a little more assertive. Still, she is on the whole a likable character. Her willingness to sacrifice for the betterment of others is indeed touching. As for the other characters, they were perfect in their own ways. At first I had an immense liking for Cynthia. Her charming nature with all her little imperfections seemed adorable to me at first. However, her callous attitude towards those who cared for her made me dislike her by the end. As for Mrs Hyacinth Gibson, her histrionics were entertaining to read about even though she was too self-obsessed to be liked much.

The only thing amiss in this book is that the author was unable to complete it before her death. Even though the ending as thought by Elizabeth Gaskell is written by her editor, still it was not the same without her beautiful description to accompany it. I must mention a little warning for those who don't like to read long books. This book is pretty lengthy. However, it is still a book that no one should skip a chance of reading.

Favourite Quotes:
"Nay, nay!" said the Squire. "It's not so easy to break one's heart. Sometimes I've wished it were. But one has to go on living--`all the appointed days,' as is said in the Bible."

"I say Gibson, we're old friends, and you're a fool if you take anything I say as an offense. Madam your wife and I didn't hit it off the only time I ever saw her. I won't say she was silly, but I think one of us was silly, and it wasn't me!"

"The French girls would tell you, to believe that you were pretty would make you so."

Overall:
An enjoyable read filled with vibrant characters.

Recommended?
Yes, especially to all Jane Austen fans.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless, 20 Jun 2011
In spite of the charming antiquated language, Wives and Daughters is as relevant for today as ever. Delinquent youths and difficult step-parents were as much a part of the past as they are of the present. Anyone who ever had a stepmother can relate to what Molly goes through with hers. Molly is an engaging heroine, sweet and backward but always virtuous and pure. She is a beautiful role model for readers young and old. I loved this book; it was easier to read then the Bronte sisters.
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Wives and Daughters (Penguin Classics)
Wives and Daughters (Penguin Classics) by Elizabeth Gaskell (Paperback - 30 May 1996)
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