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(From the 1999 Masterpiece Theatre season.) Wives and Daughters is Elizabeth Gaskell’s final, and perhaps her finest, novel. Our heroine is young Molly Gibson, and the story revolves around her point of view. Molly’s contented life with her widowed doctor father gets more interesting when Molly meets the Hamleys, a proud, upper-class family that has fallen on hard times. Then Molly’s father suddenly remarries, turning her world on end. Molly’s life soon becomes intertwined with that of her flighty stepsister Cynthia, and with the two equally charming Hamley sons Osborne and Roger. Osborne Hamley is played by Tom Hollander, whose talents Hollywood has tapped into for the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and for the newest Pride and Prejudice adaptation. Michael Gambon as hot-tempered but soft-hearted Squire Hamley will be recognized by many viewers; he’s also in Masterpiece Theatre’s Cranford. But Justine Waddell as Molly is the one to watch; pretty but intelligent, modest but direct, keeper of many secrets, Molly is a heroine whose happy ending we are committed to watching. When Elizabeth Gaskell died in 1866 Wives and Daughters was incomplete, though the stage was set and the loose ends were ready to be tied. Screenwriter Andrew Davies writes a charming (if slightly modern) ending to Molly’s story that satisfies completely. For Wives and Daughters in print, try the Penguin Classics edition published in 2003.
posted Jul 6, 2009 at 11:47AM
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