I was pretty convinced I was not going to be crazy about this book. I had it in my mind that it was very conventional. I might clutch my hand to my heart briefly several times, and be charmed by the old-fashioned details a la Cranford, but my expectations were not high.
I was Wrong — Again! (I love it when I’m wrong!)
I liked this book SO much. Gaskell’s power of observation, wit, and sly humor completely won me over. I thought I was going to roll my eyes repeatedly over Molly, but she became an extremely loved character. I felt that Gaskell drew a realistic portrait of the inner conflict a bright and “different” girl/woman of the time would experience in the society she lived in. I also loved the exploration of character (as in traits that form the individual moral or ethical nature of a person) and social class, the deconstruction of small town gossip (so much of the humor was in these sections!), and the shades-of-grey characters (I love the fact that the Squire, for example, redeems himself but not 100% — he’s still stubborn as a goat at the end. I’m still not sure if Osborne did the only thing he could with his secret.).
I also loved Lady Harriet!
A word on the ending: Gaskell died before she got to “finish” the book, but I loved the ending exactly how it was — I thought it said everything we needed to know without the book being tied up in a neat and terribly obvious pink bow. It was quite modern if you ask me! I liked being left with Molly’s future feeling happy and positive, but not every little detail resolved.
I’m now trying to carve out the time to finish viewing the adaptation. We watched the first half, and I was going to finish it up on my own but my husband said, “No, no! I want to see it!” How that tickles me!
(image: another wonderful du Maurier illustration from the book. This is when Lady H gives Mr. Preston the what’s what!!)