Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Wives and Daughters...the beginning of the end

I just got back from a spring break trip to NYC and Cooperstown (for the Baseball Hall of Fame), which is why I haven't posted in awhile. Both were wonderful--we got to see Lauren Graham as Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, and we got to see all the baseball greats from the ages immortalized in what comes down to a shrine to a great game. I especially enjoyed visiting the exhibit on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and seeing the photos of the women we learned about in A League of Their Own

On the reading front, I finally started rereading WIVES AND DAUGHTERS: An Everyday Story
to close out my end-to-end reading of Elizabeth Gaskell. I won't claim to have read every word she has written, but I have now read all the novels and novellas and most of the short stories and a few of the non-fiction pieces.

Wives and Daughters is undoubtedly her masterpiece. While I love North and South, Gaskell is a much more accomplished writer at the end of her life. It's been fascinating reading her end-to-end and to watch her grow in her use of language and her control of her characters. I'm only up to chapter 6 where Molly first visits Hamley Hall, but I'm already mesmerized by the gently rocking motion of the text. I can't help but feel sad at the huge change that Dr. Gibson is going to inflict on his life and that of his daughter by his misguided attempt to keep his bird in her cage.

I was reading W&D on the plane home sitting next to my own 16-year old daughter, fresh from the sights and sounds (not to mention the smells and sensations) of Manhattan and I thought about the huge difference that 150 years has made in the lives of young women. Much as I love studying history and reading Victorian literature, I am so glad to have the opportunity to live my life now and not then.


  1. I love Wives and Daughters! I read it last year. I hope to read all her other books soon :)

  2. Here, here! (Spoken by a mother of a daughter who is graduating from Grad School next month). I can not imagine her ever "only having access to her father's library"... which would have been ridiculous because I don't think that I ever saw her father pick up a book in all the time we were together. Sheesh! What an idiot I was back then! :-)

    BTW: Loved the film version of Wives and Daughters, never read the book...

    (it doesn't take much for me to go off on some wild tangent!

  3. Becky - W&D is truly a gem. Thanks for stopping by.

    Theresa - congratulations to your daughter! Access to libraries is definitely a variable thing :)

  4. Oh I agree. It was my intro to Gaskell and I adored it.

  5. I've enjoyed your writing about Gaskell. I've never read her, besides some excerpts of the Brontë bio. Clearly a problem I need to remedy, maybe this summer.

  6. A. Reader - the Brontë is definitely interesting in terms of bio genre, but her novels are were she shines. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. I love hearing from those who've read and enjoyed Gaskell's novels (especially W&D) since that's next on my to do list. I'm ashamed to say that I've loved the adapatation but have yet to read the book!
    On another note...you got to see Lauren Graham on stage??!! Lucky!

  8. Hi Charley--thanks for stopping by. I'll be interested in hearing how you like W&D--it sounds like you watch the adaptations before the book, and I almost always do the reverse, but it's always interesting to see what the scriptwriter left in, changed, etc.

    Lauren was awesome--standing ovation for her role as Miss Adelaide the night we went.