Lizzie Leigh by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)

Novella review: Lizzie Leigh by Elizabeth Gaskell (Manybooks.net/Project Gutenberg [1855])

Lizzie Leigh is a story about a family in the countryside somewhere, who carry a dark secret. Their daughter went off to Manchester and was dismissed from her place of work because of some sinful behaviour. On his deathbed, her father forgives her, in her absense, and once he’s gone, the mother decides to let the farm and go to Manchester to look for Lizzie. In Manchester, one of the sons befriends an old drunk and his lovely daughter, a teacher. Could they aid the Leighs in finding their lost daughter?

I started reading this story on the plane from just Manchester, and the funny thing is, it begins around Christmas, with lots of snow and such. Perfect match! Mrs. Gaskell tells a compelling story of a mother’s longing for her lost child, and the hope that she will be found and that she’s not dead and buried.

It partly reminded me of Kejsarn av Portugallien by Selma Lagerlöf, where a father is so proud of his daughter and loves her very much and she goes away to a Big City too (Stockholm). Although, when the daughter doesn’t keep in touch, he starts to live in a fantasy world, believing that she’s an empress, when in fact she’s become a prostitute. Or at least, such was my recollection based on a TV adaptation I saw when I was ten. Reading the synopsis on Wikipedia, it appears the prostitution thing may have just been a vile rumour, as opposed to what actually happened. Anyway, I was thinking that’s what happened to her, so to find out that’s not exactly what happened was a bit surprising, perhaps, but a big issue for the time, none the less. The mother is not under any pretenses that her child has become an empress or anything, she knows the details of the scandal – it’s just that Mrs. Gaskell doesn’t let the reader quite know what has happened.

The style of Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing is very appealing. It’s easy to read, no too difficult words. They do talk in a northern English dialect, but you can actually decipher what’s being said without needing a translation, unlike Joseph’s gobbledygook in Wuthering Heights.

Got a bunch of Gaskell texts downloaded to my Kindle, so I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of them as well! 🙂

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