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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sylvia's Lovers - Intriguing Read Open to Different Interpretations
Set in Whitby when it was a whaling town (many days before conservation!) during the Napoleonic wars, this is the story of the struggle between the two admirers of Sylvia Robson, daughter of smuggler-turned-farmer Daniel. She is loved by the serious minded Philip Hepburn and the dashing, lively 'Speksioneer' chief harpooner Charley Kinraid.

Philip has adored...
Published on 19 May 2010 by Mary Ann

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2.0 out of 5 stars I found it dull
I admire "Cranford" (the book, not the dire BBC version) but when on the strength of that I began sampling Gaskell's other novels, I found them very ho-hum. I'm not sure why, except that the reproduction in print of dialect speech is sure to be tiresome except in small doses. I finished the most celebrated titles - they're ok, but I don't particularly want...
Published 3 months ago by Pulver S.


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sylvia's Lovers - Intriguing Read Open to Different Interpretations, 19 May 2010
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Set in Whitby when it was a whaling town (many days before conservation!) during the Napoleonic wars, this is the story of the struggle between the two admirers of Sylvia Robson, daughter of smuggler-turned-farmer Daniel. She is loved by the serious minded Philip Hepburn and the dashing, lively 'Speksioneer' chief harpooner Charley Kinraid.

Philip has adored Sylvia for years, much to her disgust. When Sylvia hears the story of Charley Kinraid's being shot trying to defend his shipmates from a raid by one of the hated press gangs, he becomes a hero to her. They soon start to fall in love. Unlike Philip, he is depicted as being handsome and charming.

When Charley is forcibly impressed himself, he demands that Phlip deliver a message to Sylvia that he will be true. Philip, knowing Charley's reputation as a womaniser, decides not to pass on what he believes to be a worthless message. Soon, tragic circumstances force Sylvia to marry Philip.

But then Charley Kinraid returns...

The writing is lively, the descriptions vivid, and it is a compelling read overall.

**Spoiler Alert for Next Five Paragraphs**

I used to agree fully with the view of the critic T J Winnifrith that 'Kinraid is eventually shown to be a shallow character, but the depiction of him is always so superficial that it is difficult to understand the depths of Sylvia's love for him'. I did find him very much a cardboard hero, devoid of the little human weaknesses that make a character endearing, and I felt that this was a great weakness in the book until I had a fascinating discussion with the lovely reviewer balleto8, who pointed out some things that changed my perception of what Gaskell was aiming at.

A great many literary critics and general readers accept Charley Kinraid fairly uncritically,assuming that he is meant to be wholly admirable, that the romance between Kinraid and Sylvia is intended by Gaskell to be deep and true and seem to have no objection to the superficial depiction of the character.

Ballet08, however, argues that Sylvia is meant to be a foolish young thing who is so infatuated by Kinraid and his reputation that she has no sense regarding him;that Gaskell in fact was questioning the typical concept of a hero in her creation of the opposing characters the flashy, macho Charley Kinraid and Philip Hepburn, who is despised by many for his 'unmasculine' occupation in working in a drapers shop and his opposition to violence; that in contrasting the characters of Kinraid and Hepburn Gaskell was trying to create a new type of hero.

This interpretation makes Gaskell's shallow potrayal of Kinraid not a fault in characterisation, as I had assumed, but a deliberate technique so that Sylvia's feelings for him remain not a real love of the man, but infatuation with the hero that she thinks that he is.

Thus,I can see that if Kinraid is depicted as a Cardboard Hero without any endearing human weaknesses (having hollow legs for drink and womanising hardly count), so that you would never catch him being seasick like Horatio Hornblower or falling flat on his face during that hornpipe he does at the New Year's Eve Fete after drinking all night - then this is so that this whole concept of the Macho Hero can be called into question.

**End of Spoilers**

There is a great deal of fascinating detail in this well-researched novel.

The lapse into melodrama in the last part of the novel has often been condemned, but I did find the end, with its emphasis on reconciliation and forgiveness,touching.
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2.0 out of 5 stars I found it dull, 23 May 2014
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I admire "Cranford" (the book, not the dire BBC version) but when on the strength of that I began sampling Gaskell's other novels, I found them very ho-hum. I'm not sure why, except that the reproduction in print of dialect speech is sure to be tiresome except in small doses. I finished the most celebrated titles - they're ok, but I don't particularly want re-read them. "Sylvia's Lovers" I just couldn't get through at all, so the fact of not being able to finish it IS the review.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interest is in Whitby, 15 Jan 2014
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I bought this because of the Whitby setting, and read the first three chapters which are set in Whitby in 1790. That was all I intended to read, but I note that David Cecil rates it among Gaskell's best so shall probably go on to read it all. But at 450 pages I shall put it to one side for a while.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my favourite ever book (and i've read lots of them!!), 7 Jun 2008
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this is a true classic in every sense....beautiful characters, tragedy and joy, elation and despair...it is emotional rollercoaster in book and i highly recommend it. Don't let the size put you off, it is brilliant throughout
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really Touching, 19 Mar 2007
This was the first Gaskell book I read and I was not disappointed. Gaskell has written in such a way you can't help but feel Sylvia's emotions. Even when we're certain she's acting in a way we would not advise, as readers we're made to sympathise with Sylvia. I honestly have to say though, had I been a character in this novel and found out Phillip's deception, I would have put a bullet through his heart, love is supposedly selfless, Phillip's love is selfish, I can only fault Gaskell by making Phillip the `hero'. He just came across as whiny and irritating to me.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Press Gangs and Capes, 17 Sep 2009
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This review is from: Sylvia's Lovers (World's Classics) (Paperback)
This is a beautifully written book, but a tragic, tragic tale.

This is the first Gaskell novel I have read, and now I'm hooked! She has interwoven the story of Sylvia and her family with the fascinating upheaval that the activities of the press gangs had on daily life (and a pretty hard life it was for many) in a North Yorkshire fishing town.

The characterisation is magnificent and her descriptions of the Yorkshire landscape are brilliant. If you know of, or have ever been to Whitby the story will truly come alive for you - stand at the Abbey steps and imagine that you're part of the funeral procession... look out to sea and imagine the man o war anchored ready to pounce on the returning whalers...
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tragic tale of doomed lovers, 26 Mar 2009
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Paul Brodrick "Brodders" (Bromsgrove UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This historical novel, set in Whitby at the end of the 18th century but written in the middle of the 19th century, could be seen as Mrs Gaskell's 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles', featuring as it does characters whose lives are torn apart by misunderstandings and fate. Sylvia loves Charley Kinraid but instead marries her cousin Philip, believing Kinraid to have been taken by a press gang or lost at sea. But she can never love Philip in the way she does Kinraid and when she discovers it was Philip's duplicity that led her to believe Kinraid was dead she cannot forgive him. Philip then abandons her to fight in the war against the French in Aden, later to return disfigured and destitute, living in abject poverty until fate finally reveals his presence to Sylvia only when he is mortally wounded. Only then does she find it in her heart to forgive him, having already been forsaken by the faithless Kinraid.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shame About the Whales..., 4 April 2012
My OH wanted me to read this to find out what I thought of the characters.
Me: (suspicious) 'It's Elizabeth Gaskell. Is it a love story?'
Her: 'Only partly...You'll be interested in the historical background.'
Me: 'Well, OK, but you'll have to read some Virgil.'

The background to this story is fascinating, as this is set in Whitby during the French Revolution when it was a whaling port.

It's about a pretty, silly girl named Sylvia Robson who's worshipped by her nerdy shopkeeper cousin. She falls in love with a flashy unreliable Specksioneer named Charley Kinraid when he does some heroics trying to save his mates on his returning whaler when a press gang board and try and take them, shooting two sailors dead and getting left for dead himself.

They get engaged, but then Kinraid gets taken by the press gang and the only person to see is Hepburn, who's supposed to pass on a message to Sylvia, only he doesn't feel like it and schemes to marry her himself.

This is an interesting story, but it's spoilt by Kinraid and Hepburn's characters
being too much opposites; Kinriad's a stereotypical hero with nothing going on inside his head and his only weakness women and booze, where Hepburn's an introverted depressive who needs to get out a lot more, particularly to the gym (if they'd had them back then).

Generally a very good read for all that and being a tad on the melodramatic side for me.

Shame about the whales, though. Nobody bothered about them.
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Sylvia's Lovers (World's Classics)
Sylvia's Lovers (World's Classics) by Elizabeth Gaskell (Paperback - 1 Sep 1982)
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