“Molly went upstairs very happy, very full and warm at her heart.”
– Wives and Daughters, Elizabeth Gaskell
Sometimes you encounter a book that makes your heart so full that you can’t help looking forward to encountering it throughout your day. This book leaves a sort of film over your eyes, so that even when you’re sitting at your desk at work, staring at an Excel spreadsheet, you’re still seeing the characters of the novel. Their voices still resonate in your ears, and you can still perfectly imagine what they are saying and doing, even when the book is not in front of you. The book is like that guy you have a crush on, the guy you realize at the end of the day that you’ve actually been thinking about constantly without even knowing it. And when you open it on the bus ride home after a long day or when you’re sitting in bed getting ready for a new day to start, it kind of feels like coming home, like peace and calm.
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell is the latest book to leave me with that feeling. I’ve already spoken about the book here on the blog, but I finally finished it and I was left so satisfied and very sad. I knew that I would struggle to find another novel that would make me so eager to read each day (although I think I finally settled on a good contender with the novel I’m reading now – see my Goodreads page and the preview on the right side of this page for details!), and I immediately missed the characters. I missed Mrs. Gibson’s antics and ridiculousness, Cynthia’s drama but also her kind heart, and most of all I missed Molly’s strength and her ability to get through any obstacle with such levelheaded insight and perspective.
Upon finishing the novel, I encountered a review on Goodreads that revealed that the authoress decorously called Mrs. Gaskell in the 19th century passed away before completing Wives and Daughters. That fact is quite obvious from the abrupt ending – but rather than feeling as though this ending ruined the novel, made it less complete and profound, I felt as though the unfinished, open-ended conclusion left me wanting so much more and made the characters resonate and stick with me more profoundly. As a reader, I was called to come up with my own ending, to put together the pieces Mrs. Gaskell had left me and conjecture the most reasonable conclusions. I think I have a good idea of where Molly would’ve ended up, mistress of the Hall she loved so well. And I think I would’ve seen Cynthia happy, and maybe watched Mr. and Mrs. Gibson settle into a more amiable rapport. I think that, had Mrs. Gaskell finished her final novel, I would have been extremely pleased with the result because, let’s be honest, a Victorian novel can never let you down when it comes to romance.
Days are not always easy, weeks even less so when they’re the sum of very stressful and bizarre days, but if you have that special book that you carry in your bag with you, that you know will instantly whisk you a million miles away, then everything seems just a little bit easier and the sun shines down just a little bit brighter.
Have a happy week full of reading!
Girl with a Green Heart