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.
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.
©2003 Elizabeth Gaskell (P)2010 Naxos Audiobooks
Retired to mountains of California. Sell on eBay as Prsilla. No TV. Volunteer in wildlife rehab. Knit, sew or embroider while listening.
Patience Tomlinson is as fine a narrator as Juliet Stevenson or Davina Porter ever thought of being. I don't know why her talents are being wasted on mediocre chapter books. Except for a few works on history, she is kept working reading ephemeral junk.In this wonderful novel, she sings in French and replicates a couple dozen voices of both sexes and all ages and a range of social ranks and geographical origins. For one of them, it sounds like she was holding her nose! For the high-ranking lady, she takes on a twirpy mispronunciation of ordinary words. She is a howling old man whose son has died. She is a weeping toddler who fell down an incline. She brings the story to life! I'm not a Brit, but I loved and appreciated every bit of it.
And this novel must surely be Ms. Gaskell's masterpiece. Yes, it's about bonnets and petticoats and who is marriagable and how much money they have. It's about sipping tea in drawing rooms, leaving calling cards, and the seeming silliness of early 1800's England that we know from other novelists. It is also about the finest details of conversation, putting people at their ease, smoothing things over, twisting the truth, running guilt trips on others, calling attention to oneself -- in short, all the same features of "social intercourse" that challenge us today. Last week I was bullied, demeaned and contradicted in a church knitting group, my hometown called the armpit of the country and all as sweetly as could be. Never mind that I can knit circles around the others, how do I attain peace and possibly put this nasty woman in her place without making the other sweet Christian ladies uncomfortable? It's a puzzlement! And the same things were going on two centuries ago with huge subtlety.
Gaskell gives us a sweet and bright heroine with a widowed physician father who is also bright and loving. She gives us some interesting people in the nearby town -- two families in large houses and quite a few struggling gentility. Then the physician remarries. The new step-mother has a daughter of her own, also a teen-ager and very beautiful and also loving. But the new step-mother must be one of the most irritating, one of the nastiest women in all literature. A second listen only points up how masterfully Gaskell handles this character. I wanted to say, "Oh, shut up!" And Gaskell uses this character's blathering to build suspense. We want to say enough of all that, what is going on with . . . ?
There are love stories and weddings in the book. Gaskell points up the difference between being physically attractive -- slim and well-dressed, nice on the surface -- and being truly kind, dependable, hard-working and intelligent. Our heroine is very bright, curious and caring. She doesn't play dumb, either. This wins her the prize in the end.
I LOVE THIS BOOK!
I really enjoyed the story. The reader had a great range for all the men and women's voices. I was less than enthused with her Lady Comner and Dr. Gibson. I thought the former's speech impediment went in and out and the latter's Scottish brogue was too faint for American ears. All in all beautifully read and acted. I especially enjoyed Squire Hamily of Hamily. Very well realized. Lots of passion.
If you don't mind the simpering voice for Molly--
The novel is wonderful--but ruined by the narrator--
Needed to understand the character of Molly before voicing her--
Couldn't continue since the narrator's voice for Molly was just horrible!
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