I drank too much alcohol last night, got too little sleep, drank too much coffee at work, am working a double today, and haven't eaten anything since breakfast. What better conditions under which to post? Anyway, I've been catching up on blogs, and for the first time in a while felt like writing something here.
I'd been wanting to read Wives and Daughters for a while, since I like Elizabeth Gaskell despite North and South, but after a friend told me that the BBC adaptation was the cult movie at her school (preferred over "Pride and Prejudice"!), I knew I had to read the book (as well as see the film, if I can find it). I was surprised at how long it took me to get into the novel; for at least the first ten chapters I had to convince myself to keep going in hopes of it getting better. Fortunately it did, and I was fascinated to observe an incredible writing skill unfold before me. Many books include characters that at first seem pleasant and then turn nasty, but my opinions of nearly all the characters in this book changed over the course of reading it. One in particular I found effective because of her resemblance to someone of my acquaintance--she was at first presented as a sweet, kind, gentle governess, whose position in life caused her to be much pitied and sympathized with; clearly, a character that the reader is intended to like. As the novel progressed and her situation began to change, she was slowly revealed to be shockingly self-centered and manipulative--and it came convincingly out of her previous behavior. The heroine went through an opposite transformation, from a rather dull and mealy-mouthed child to a woman who knew herself and stood up for her beliefs despite being constantly beleaguered by those around her.
The plot of this novel was fairly simple and predictable, but that's not why one reads Mrs Gaskell. (If you want plot twists, read Minette Walters!) Like all her novels, this one can be summarized as the development of a girl into a woman, and a look at quiet village life. Molly Gibson is not a great heroine, but she is an interesting one, and the way she deals with the difficult people in her life is admirable.