Wives and Daughters is my favorite book by Elizabeth Gaskell. For those unfamiliar with the author, her books are a cross between the attention to social issues of Dickens, and the romance and wit of Austen. She wrote this story as a serial to be published in a magazine. My edition is based off the original Cornhill Magazine serialization 1864-6. The only issue with this book is the author died a chapter or two before finishing it. By the end the reader has a feel for what was going to happen, and there are notes that the author wrote down about the story. She had also told people what she intended to write, so a reasonable end can be determined. It is not as satisfying if we had the author filling in all the details, but at least we have an idea how it would end.
This is the coming of age story of Molly Gibson. Her father remarries, and at 17 she has a stepmother and stepsister. This is not a cinderella story. They are not cruel to her. The stepmother is perhaps, unaware or insensitive to other people's feelings, but not deliberately cruel. Molly makes friends across class lines due to her straightforward manner. She has no pretension. The book explores the different roles we play in life.
I really enjoy reading this book. It is a story I turn to again and again. It has a place on my Favorite Books List. Gaskell makes you love the characters despite their faults and foibles. I like characters that aren't annoyingly perfect or all bad. There are shades to the characters making them seem like real people. The repeated lines about acceptance of a person how they are, and not expecting them to change for other's whims and fancies, also made the characters seem very real.
It is an easy read, and enjoyable. I would recommend reading this book before Gaskell's other books. To me, it seems to flow better than the others. I would like to know what people thought about this book, and how it compares to her other books in your opinion.
There is an excellent film version of this book done by the BBC that follows the book closely, which makes it more satisfying to watch if you really like the book.