“Molly Gibson is the much loved daughter of a widowed town doctor. The doctor wishing companionship and a mother figure for his daughter married Hyacinth. Molly resents her step mother but becomes fast friends with the supercilious daughter Cynthia. Cynthia is secretly engaged to Mr. Preston a rogue who worked for the house of Lord Cumnor, where Hyacinth had been previously employed as a governess.
Close friends of the doctors are Squire Hamley and his disabled wife. Molly spends a lot of time at their house as both a friend and helper with the wife. Eventually she also meets Roger who has returned from travels for the Geographic Society. She is instantly enchanted and falls in love with Roger. Unfortunately Roger is drawn to Cynthia’s beauty and becomes engaged to her.
The remainder of the story is how the lives of these characters interact. When Cynthia runs off and marries a London Barrister will Molly finally get her chance with Roger? How does Squire Hamley and others deal with the death of Rogers’s brother and Mrs. Hamley?
This is an engrossing domestic comedy. Although she left the novel without its very last chapter before she died, this should not dissuade you from reading the novel: you’ll know by the end exactly where Gaskell was going to finish the book and what would’ve happened to all the characters.
I had never read Elizabeth Gaskell—but what a treasure to discover! I fell in love with all of Hollingford and its people, especially young Molly Gibson, as constant in her character as Cynthia is changeable but both equally likeable and more importantly, believable. The novel is comedic and at times slows down to a caterpillar crawl but like most great novels it packs a punch. This novel is wonderful at portraying English life in a transitional age.
Read the novel, you are not going to regret it 🙂
ABOUT ELIZABETH GASKELL: Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, née Stevenson (29 September 1810 – 12 November 1865), often referred to simply as Mrs. Gaskell, was an English novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. She is perhaps best known for her biography of Charlotte Brontë. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and as such are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature.
This review is part of “18th & 19th Century Women Writers Reading Challenge 2010”
hosted by Becky and also part of “2010 Support Your Local Library Reading Challenge” hosted by J.Kaye.