When her father remarries, the honest, innocent Molly Gibson suddenly finds herself with a new stepsister, Cynthia, who is beautiful, worldly and impetuous. This would be more than enough to deal with, but the new wife is the deeply snobbish (and darkly secretive) Hyacinth. Thwarted love, scheming ambition and small-town gossip underlie the warmth, irony and brilliant social observation which link the relationships and the inevitable conflicts as profound change comes to rural England.
The most mature and rewarding of her novels, Wives and Daughters places Elizabeth Gaskell in the first rank of English authors.
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The eternal theme of thwarted love and scheming ambition is set in the microcosm of a provincial British village. Narrator Patience Tomlinson possesses an astonishing vocal range - from the high pitches of youth to the gruff basses of elderly gentlemen. Her portrayals of the novel's many characters and dialects are distinctive, making all the characters identifiable in terms of their age, gender, and station. Replete with nineteenth-century social values and hierarchies, Gaskell's important work follows the life of Molly Gibson. Tomlinson's expressiveness keeps the listener spellbound.
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