Classics Challenge #3: Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
If you haven't read my post about my 2016 Changes and Challenges, this is a reading challenge hosted by Bloggista Stacey at theprettybooks.wordpress.com. Participants read one classic per month, then blog about each month's choice and the overall experience!
Why I Chose This Classic:
Elizabeth Gaskell, ELIZABETH GASKELL, ELIZABETH GIRL-POWER GASKELL!!!!!
She is BY FAR one of my favorite female authors from this time period! I'll give you some perspective as to why, via an SAT-worthy Compare & Contrast:
Jane Austen is to "happy endings of the Regency Era" as Elizabeth Gaskell is to "roundhouse kicking issues of women rights/class inequality/socioeconomic labor laws in the FACE"
Except Gaskell -crafty little wordwitch - shrouds her agendas of do-good with Austen worthy characters and escapades, sucking you into a blissful Pride and Prejudice-esque trance of teacups, empire-waist gowns, and sprawling estates the size of Vanderbilt.
So let's recap, shall we! Elizabeth Gaskell: highly intelligent, known as a social novelist for her themes of gender equality, treatment of the working class, unfair divisions of class, and unitarianism/religious freedom.... Can I get an AMEN?!
- Similar to last month's classic, Anna Karenina, Gaskell published Wives and Daughters as an 18 month series in the Cornhill Magazine from August 1864 to January 1866.
- While not nearly as long as Tolstoy's novel (tapping out at a measly 650 pages), it unfortunately was never finished. Mrs. Gaskell died of a heart attack before she had a chance to finish the last of her novel.
I started Wives and Daughters with a preconceived notion that it would resemble Gaskell's other well-known novel, North and South: dark backdrops, mature characters, weight realistic issues of societal importance woven into storyline, etc.
Surprisingly, I was wrong.
And even more surprisingly, I LOVED IT! (Don't worry, N&S, you're still my boo!)
For those of you who haven't read North and South, you can always cheat via Netflix and watch the FABULOUS BBC adaptation!! Of course, liberties were taken with the ending. Aaaaand there are a few romantic rid bits thrown in to help out our protagonists - who quite frankly didn't have much time for romance amidst strikes, famine, religious doubts, consumption, and bankruptcy.
They made it into a 4 episode mini-series, starring a younger Richard Armitage - AKA Thorin Oakenshield, son of Thrain, son of Thrór, King under the freaking Mountain!! *shields ears from piercing fangirl shrieking*
*rolls eyes* Armitage groupies...
Back to Wives and Daughters...
Anyhow, this novel was quite different from the one above. While North and South drew much of its conflicts from external devices, Gaskell used masterful character development to create inner conflicts amongst her cast.
The story takes place in the small town of Hollingford. Like all small towns, gossip runs amok, everyone knows everyone, and trivial matters are somehow blown comically out of proportion, making for a very interesting read that smacks of Austen's Emma.
Wives and Daughters is 80% a coming of age story, starring Molly Gibson, our warm-hearted, innocent, beautiful 17 year old protagonist, and 20% a life lesson in judgement of character (I'm looking at you, Dr. Gibson... We all know why you married that horrible woman Mrs. Gibson, and it sure as hell wasn't to give Molly a mother figure...) religious tolerance (there are elements of xenophobia peppered ALL throughout this novel, namely from Squire Hamley of Hamley Hall, whose son Osborne Hamley marries a French Catholic), and romantic love that is realistic (No spoilers!!)
After last month's soap opera from hell, I'm SO happy with this month's classic!! If you want to cheat, BBC also made a mini-series of Wives and Daughters, taking liberties to create a finale that hopefully Mrs. Gaskell would have approved of! I loved it almost as much as my beloved N&S....