Classics Challenge: Wives and Daughters

This was lovely. Just what I needed in my otherwise dense reading list. This is not surprising to me as I really love Elizabeth Gaskell in general and North and South is one of my absolute favorite books (and mini-series!) This one is not quite as good as that one but it's still pretty darn good.

We follow the main character, Molly, as she experiences changes to her family and friends and community and get to watch as she grows through those experiences.  I love Molly. She's not particularly witty or full of charisma or beautiful. Her main attribute is that she's really good.  I really enjoy a lovable character that gets to be good without being a goody-two-shoes. Of course, being a novel, not everyone is as Molly or it's probably be quite a boring story. There are some other wonderful characters (as opposed to wonderful people :-) that add to this delightful tale. Molly Gibson's father, who you want to like, but also blame a bit for the troubles he brings upon himself. Cythia, who above all else is very interesting. And her mother. Well, she does add some humor to the book.

Oh, it's so witty and clever. There are just some great lines in it. Some pensive, some laugh at loud funny. I'm not sure this has the same ring out of context, but I do think it earns it's spot in a commonplace book.

I won't say she was silly, but I think one of us was silly, and it was not me.

It's got a bit of romance but has a lot to say about family and community. Overall, Gaskell doesn't go as deep in her writings as Austen or Bronte in terms of society commentary and tends to be a little more moralistic. They both have their place in my life. This one had me spending a lot of time thinking about character and personalities and choices.

Now, the ending. The only reason I put off reading this one so long was because it doesn't really end. Elizabeth Gaskell passed away before writting the final scene. It's close enough to the end of the novel that you can see where she's going (and there are notes of what she had intended which confirm this) so I was less disappointed at the lack of closure than I expected. Still, I am sad that we don't get to read her real words. Knowing how well she can write an ending*, it's sad she didn't get to write this one. Still, it's a great book. You should read it.

Semi-Spoilers for Wives and Daughters and North and South
*North and South's ending. Swoon. I mean, it's different from the movie which is also swoon worthy and probably does the job better visually so I don't mind the switch but I really like the book ending. A lot. But then I like that whole book a lot. It's one of my comfort re-reads. The ones you pick up when you have the flu and are stuck in bed but have no brain power to read something new. Although thinking of that as a comforting happy book seems a bit odd because - everyone dies! Wives and Daughters strikes me as a little bit more of a downer overall even though the survival rate is much higher. So I can see me re-reading this someday but not at the frequency of North and South.

Wives and Daughters is my classic by a woman author selection. For more classics reviews, visit Books and Chocolate's Back to the Classics Challenge.

1 comment :

  1. I love that line. Also wonderful in the TV adaptation with Michael Gambon. Hyacinth was very silly.