This morning I finished reading

The book carries a useful introduction by Susan Hill and skilful woodcuts by Joan Hassall, who has produced a good likeness of the writer on the frontispiece.

Although I had previously read most of the longer works of Elizabeth Gaskell, one of my favourite Victorian novelists, I had never read this little gem before. This was begun as a brief entry into Dickens’s magazine, Household Words, and until the author was later persuaded to turn it into a novel was to remain as such. She did produce the novel which originally appeared in book form in 1853. Mrs Gaskell’s elegant prose and skill in story telling has produced a romance which is much more than the original concept of a description of the fading genteel society of mostly contemporary women and their subtle intrigues, clashes of personality, petty squabbles, and keen gossip. The characterisation is rounded and the people mostly engaging. There are joys and disasters, all finally brought to clear conclusions.

The captioned illustrations are interspersed among the text, while

a variety of relevant vignettes bring to a close many of the chapters and ultimately the book.

This evening we dined on roast chicken thighs marinaded in Nando’s lemon chicken sauce; a flavoursome combo of savoury rice from Becky and Jackie; a firm broccoli, followed by New Forest strawberries – the tastiest we’ve ever known – and cream. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Fougères.


  1. Such exquisite drawings.
    The light in ‘it flashed before me that it was the aga himself’ is so cleverly depicted.
    Thank you so much for such an interesting review.

  2. What a great book! And these illustrations are so perfect and expressive! I get lost in the lines, shapes, faces, motion and details…the boot-kitty getting some jelly, The Grand Turk, the baby, and Mrs. Jamieson sleeping all made me smile. 🙂
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

  3. Mrs. Gaskell looks like a pleasant and pretty woman. It sounds like a engaging book and the woodcuts were skillfully done. I enjoyed them very much.

  4. I’ve just purused all your scans(23 that I counted) of the superb and skilful woodcuts by Joan Hassall, and I was more than impressed by the delicate detail of each carving Derrick

  5. You have summarised the book through brief, penetrating statements. I haven’t read Elizabeth Gaskell ever, but the overview along with powerful illustrations has brought home the flavour of the book.

  6. Those woodcuts are outstanding. What skill. Hello, from Oregon. I haven’t visited for such a long time due to my ferociously packed schedule. I miss hearing about you and Jackie and the garden and the birds and reading the chapters in your memoir. I hope to come back consistently some day. But if not, know I’m thinking of you both and sending smiles and hugs. ~Crystal

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