Molly Gibson, the only daughter of a widowed doctor in the small provincial town of Hollingford, lost her mother when she was a child. Her father remarries wanting to give Molly the woman's presence he feels she lacks. To Molly, any stepmother would have been a shock, but the new Mrs. Gibson is a self-absorbed, petty widow, and Molly's unhappiness is compounded by the realisation that her father has come to regret his second marriage.
Although Molly resents her stepmother, she befriends her new step-sister, Cynthia, who is loveable, but worldly and troubling. The audiobook chronicles their maturation into womanhood within the confines of the gossiping and watchful society of Hollingford.
As Molly matures and falls in love she learns to judge people for what they are, not what they seem. Through Molly, the social values and changes of early 19th-century England are brought to life in this timeless representation of human relationships. The audiobook is more than just a nostalgic story of village life, it offers an ironic critique of mid-Victorian society.
Known as her last, longest, and perhaps finest work, it was not quite complete when Gaskell died suddenly in 1865. The last section was written by Frederick Greenwood.
Prunella Scales is a classically trained stage actress but is best known for her role as Sybil Fawlty in the BBC comedy Fawlty Towers (1975-1979) and for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in A Question of Attribution (1991) for which she was nominated a BAFTA. Her film appearances have included Stiff Upper Lips (1997), Howard's End (1992), and Wolf (1994). She was awarded the CBE for her services to drama in 1992 and the Patricia Rothermere Award for her contributions to British Theatre in 2001. More recent appearances have included the mini-series The Shell Seekers (2006), a production of Carrie's War at the Apollo Theatre (2009), Horrid Henry: The Movie (2013) and a guest appearance in the popular BBC radio comedy Cabin Pressure (2013). Julian Barnes' The Lemon Table and Anne Fine's Charm School are among the many audiobooks Prunella Scales has narrated.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Philadelphus on 01-06-07
Superb characterisation by a first class reader
At first I thought Prunella Scales' relatively low-key reading a little dull, but as I Iistened my way through this lengthy classic I came to hear that she has it brilliantly right: a more hyped-up reading would have grown impossibly tiring. Her characterisations of the wearisome Mrs Gibson, the overbearing countess, Cynthia, the Squire and others are spot on, with never a doubt about what each is thinking and feeling behind their words. She even overcame the only drawback of the book - that Molly and Roger are so spotlessly white, and their relationship so lacking in tension, that I have always found it difficult to take a full interest in whether or not they come together.
31 of 33 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Jo on 24-05-10
Superb! Story and Narration A++
A committed Jane Austen fan, I first discovered Mrs Gaskell through BBC mini-series adaptations of her books whilst casting around for something similar to Jane.
The story itself is wonderfully written with characters that shine. There is subtly of character, humor, and character that you will love and love to hate.
But what really sets this one apart is Prunella Scales' absolutely superb narration, which the sample does not do justice to. She is able to read the male and female characters, upper and middle class accents, and local dialect accents wonderfully. I am English myself, and was so impressed by her range and accuracy. I shall certainly be looking out for more books read by Ms Scales -- bravo!
So if you are a fan of light but subtle, well-written period drama's (this is set in a country town in Victorian England) a la Jane Austen, give this a try - you won't be disappointed.
33 of 33 people found this review helpful
By Sherwood on 06-02-08
If you're in the mood for a delightful listen about Victorian, England, I definitely recommend this. It was entertaining and fun and light. Prunella Scales is probably the best reader of any book I've listened to. She moves from person to person so easily that you glide along with her and she never sounds forced.
I was disappointed when I read in some reviews that she died before she could finish the book, but the ending is there just not in her voice which of course would have been preferrable but did not spoil it for me.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful