Author(s): Pam (EDT) Elizabeth Cleghorn; Morris Gaskell
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 stepsister, Cynthia, enters Molly's quiet life. Loveable but worldly and troubling, Cynthia's arrival alters Molly's daily life. 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.
Elizabeth Gaskell was born in London in 1810 but spent most of her life in Cheshire, Stratford-upon-Avon. She married the Reverend William Gaskell and had four daughters by him. She worked among the poor, travelled frequently and wrote for Dickens'smagazine, Household Words. Elizabeth Gaskell was friends with Charlotte Bronte and consequently went on to write her biography. Pam Norris is Reader in Literature at Liverpool John Mooores University