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The last work Elizabeth Gaskell produced before her death, Wives and Daughters is a sweeping and affective work set in the mid-19th century in a tiny rural town in England, where young Molly Gibson struggles to adjust to a new life after her father remarries, gifting her with a gorgeous but mysterious stepsister and a haughty, withholding stepmother. Gaskell follows her characters through gossip and tragedy, hatred and love, alongside all the inescapable mundaneness of small-town life.
Voice actor Patience Tomlinson's dignified narration emphasizes the strict social observances that ruled the day, while her keen attention to emotional ebb and flow invites listeners into the world of this keen social commentary.
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 that 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 placed Elizabeth Gaskell in the first rank of English authors.