Synopses & Reviews
Set in English society before the 1832 Reform Bill, Wives and Daughters
centres on the story of youthful Molly Gibson, brought up from childhood by her father. When he remarries, a new step-sister enters Molly's quiet life – loveable, but worldly and troubling, Cynthia. The narrative traces the development of the two girls into womanhood within the gossiping and watchful society of Hollingford.
Wives and Daughters is far more than a nostalgic evocation of village life; it offers an ironic critique of mid-Victorian society. 'No nineteenth-century novel contains a more devastating rejection than this of the Victorian male assumption of moral authority', writes Pam Morris in her introduction to this new edition, in which she explores the novel's main themes – the role of women, Darwinism and the concept of Englishness – and its literary and social context.
"No nineteenth-century novel contains a more devastating rejection than this of the Victorian male assumption of moral authority."
The heroine of Elizabeth Gaskell's last novel passes from childhood to maturity in a process that, though often painful for her, is sharply and humorously observed. Set in the early 19th century, this novel is a subtle representation of historical change explored in human terms.
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