Wives and Daughters

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Wives and Daughters is a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, first published in the Cornhill Magazine as a serial from August 1864 to January 1866. When Mrs Gaskell died suddenly in 1865, it was not quite complete, and the last section was written by Frederick Greenwood.

The story revolves around Molly Gibson, only daughter of a widowed doctor living in a provincial town in Middle England in the 1830s.

Molly, who has grown up in a household full of men raised by her father and servants, finds a mother substitute in the wife of squire Hamley at Hamley Hall where she is treated as almost part of the family. Though it would be considered improper for her to form a closer attachment to either of the squire's sons, both of whom are expected to marry women of rank and wealth, Molly strikes up a shy friendship with younger son Roger.

So strong are a society's obsession with maidenly propriety that when Molly's father decides to remarry he does so hardly out of inclination but mostly out of a perceived duty to provide teenage Molly with a chaperone. However, with the new Mrs. Gibson Molly does not only gain a difficult stepmother but also a troubling stepsister her own age. Cynthia, though instantly beloved by her stepsister, is more worldly than slightly awkward and naive Molly, has been to school in France and hides secrets in her past.

Mrs. Gibson tries to bring about a marriage between her daughter Cynthia and Osborne, the heir of Hamley Hall, but it is actually Roger who falls in love with Cynthia, while Molly struggles against her growing love for Roger and Osborne, like Cynthia, has secrets of his own.

Illness and death at Hamley Hall bring some secrets out into the open and shroud others in even deeper mystery, until Molly feels the world is out of joint and it is up to her, trusted by all but listened to by none, to set it right...

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