A simple story of what life was like for both poor and rich in the 1800's. It contains some memorable sayings but the characters are not so memorable as they could be - too much description and not enough dialogue to make them real.
Wow! by far the favorite of Mrs. Gaskell's books I've read so far. How really awful it was to be poor in Manchester in the 1840s. It was all about how tragedy happens to really good people. It lacked artificiality and had great characterisation. There was so much you wouldn't expect her to write about, opium addicts, alcoholic prostitutes and murders. She talked about mother's giving opium to their children to fend off the feelings of starvation and there were many many deaths. But despite this it was never truly bleak.
Even the 19th century love story was there as social commentary and on the gloomy side, including the line of the hero picturing see his lover dead when he heard she'd been interested in someone else. "A vision of her pale sweet face, with her bright hair, all bedabbled with gore, seemed to float constantly before his eyes".
She wrote this after the death of her son and there was some beautiful passages, my favorite was:
It is the woes that cannot in any earthly way be escaped that admit least earthly comforting. Of all trite, worn-out hollow mockeries of comfort that are ever uttered by people who will not take the trouble of sympathising with others, the one I dislike the most is the exhortion not to grieve over an event "for it cannot be helped". Do you think if I could help it, I would sit still with folded hands, content to mourn? Do you not believe that as long as hope remained I would be up and doing? I mourn because what has occurred cannot be helped. The reason you give me for not grieving, is the very and sole reason of my grief."