Wives and Daughters, Paperback
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


With an Introduction and Notes by Dinny Thorold, University of Westminster Gaskell's last novel, widely considered her masterpiece, follows the fortunes of two families in nineteenth century rural England. At its core are family relationships - father, daughter and step-mother, father and sons, father and step-daughter - all tested and strained by the romantic entanglements that ensue.

Despite its underlying seriousness, the prevailing tone is one of comedy. Gaskell vividly portrays the world of the late 1820s and the forces of change within it, and her vision is always humane and progressive.

The story is full of acute observation and sympathetic character-study: the feudal squire clinging to old values, his naturalist son welcoming the new world of science, the local doctor and his scheming second wife, the two girls brought together by their parent's marriage...


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 624 pages, notes
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9781840224160


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I love to read the classics and this book was no exception. Wives and Daughters is a book full of romance and descriptive narrative, countryside life and social class. However as much as I enjoy reading a novel for the happy ending, the main love story, the heroine being acknowledged by the charming man, with this book I found myself captivated by the portrayal of the characters. Elizabeth Gaskell has an amazing skill at inventing and describing each character so that you feel as if you know them in real life. You feel as if you know what they are thinking before you have read their thoughts and you know how they will act on them. I enjoyed the element of comedy that she incorporated within some of her characters and the honesty in others. It is so unfortunate that Gaskell died before she finished Wives and Daughters as only a couple more chapters would have made it complete. All is not lost however as she did divulge her plans for the novel to friends and editions now include Gaskell's intended ending. This book for me is a study on human life of the 1820's and it is exciting, emotionally absorbing and thoroughly compelling.

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