1864 Wives and Daughters

by Elizabeth Gaskell
7 November 2009

This book was written by Elizabeth Gaskell.  It’s not on my Great Books list, and it’s not even from the time period I am currently reading about.  But I decided to take a quick break and read something just for fun.

loved this book!  It was very well-written, with deep, complicated characters.  Unfortunately, Gaskell died before she finished this book, but it was all but finished.  Another chapter would have tied everything up.  BBC has done a very good adaptation (many lines are taken directly from the text) and they added on an ending to wrap it up, which is nice to have in mind while reading that last page.

Many parts of this book made me laugh out loud, while other parts would have brought me to tears were I prone to crying in books (not that I never have…)  From what I have read by Gaskell, (which is only two books so far) she seems to be very good at creating several realistic characters, all (or nearly all) of them likable, but with distinct personalities that cause some interesting situations and conflicts when they interact.  She did a better job of this in Wives and Daughters than in North and South, the only other book of hers I have read, but I enjoyed both.

Elizabeth Gaskell was born in 1810 and was the wife of a minister, William Gaskell, who supported her writing and with whom she had six children.  She was friends with Charlotte Bronte (of whom Gaskell wrote a biography), Charles Dickens (who published her novels serially in his magazine), and Harriet Beecher Stowe.  During one of Bronte’s visits to Gaskell’s house, Gaskell had some friends stop by, but Bronte was too shy to meet them and hid behind the curtains while they were there.  I can just imagine Gaskell trying to be polite, but at the same time eying the shoes poking out under the curtain and trying to hurry the callers along.  Here is a portrait of her about the time she got married.