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POPSUGAR Reading Challenge Update: Week Fifteen

Hello, everyone! I hope that you’ve had a great week, and that you are continuing to stay healthy. I am continuing to remain at home with my best buddy, Darcy, who turned six yesterday. Darcy had a very quiet birthday, most of which was spent watching (and chattering at) the birds in the backyard. He also took the opportunity to curl up next to my feet for an extended nap while I finished reading my book, which was lovely. There’s nothing quite as nice as reading with a cat by your side…

At the beginning of the week, I did hear back about the writing contest that I entered a few months ago. Unfortunately, my short story entry was not chosen as one of the winners, but it will be published in a collection that the library is putting together (which I will hopefully be able to purchase soon). While I am a little disappointed that my story did not win, I’m also excited to have the opportunity to read the ones that did. And I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to be published!

It has been a very productive week in terms of both reading and writing. I began outlining my very first mystery novel earlier this week, and am continuing to make significant progress on it. I also managed to accomplish my reading goal for the week, finishing another book for the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge…Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters.

A book with a pink cover…

Wives and Daughters tells the story of a young woman named Molly Gibson, who (after the early death of her mother) is being raised by her single father, a country doctor, in the town of Hollingford. Shortly after intercepting a love letter from one of his young medical students to his daughter, Dr. Gibson comes to believe that Molly would benefit greatly from a mother’s care at this time in her life, and decides to remarry, choosing a widow (with a daughter about Molly’s age) as his bride. Molly is shocked to suddenly find herself facing life with a new stepmother and stepsister, but tries to heed the advice of a family friend and think of the happiness of others before her own. As it happens, the two new sisters quickly become very good friends, but there is something in Cynthia’s past that may change the girls’ lives forever.

The book tells a wonderful story about family and love, as well as the difficulties that can arise from change. It was a good novel to curl up with on rainy days over the past two weeks; though not, with its occasional subplots involving both chronic and acute (sometimes fatal) illnesses, one that allowed for a significant amount of escapism.

I first learned about Wives and Daughters from my grandfather who, knowing how much my family enjoyed Pride and Prejudice, recommended that we watch the Wives and Daughters mini-series (1999). The story is told over a series of four episodes, and stars Justine Waddell, Bill Paterson, Keeley Hawes, Iain Glen, and Michael Gambon, among many others. The acting in this series is superb, and I fell in love with the story and the characters the first time I watched it. In fact, watching the mini-series is what caused me to buy a copy of the book in the first place.

After having read the novel, I have to say that the Wives and Daughters mini-series is one of the best television/movie adaptations I’ve ever seen. Like most adaptations, there are a few differences between the book and the mini-series. Many of these differences involved scenes that were either cut or altered in some way. Some of the dialogue was also changed slightly. Overall, however, the mini-series is very faithful to the spirit of the novel.

This is my personal copy of the book; the picture taken next to my water glass just for scale.

In all honesty, I do have to admit that I actually prefer the mini-series to the book, primarily because of its length. Like A&E’s Pride and Prejudice mini-series, Wives and Daughters is around five hours in length, and can be watched in a single day, assuming you have the time and inclination to do so. The book, on the other hand, took me the better part of two weeks to read. It is a fairly large book (about 650 pages in length).

In addition to its length, the mini-series also has the added advantage of more visual storytelling. Gaskell’s descriptions are excellent, but sometimes it just helps to see the setting and characters. The locations chosen for the setting of the mini-series are beautiful, and the BBC did a marvelous job with the costumes. I particularly love the girls’ dresses, which are not only gorgeous, but seem to fit the personalities of the characters very well. I found it helpful to have watched the mini-series prior to reading the novel, because I was able to keep some of those visuals in my head as I read.

One thing that you should know prior to starting Wives and Daughters (either reading or watching) is that the book was actually unfinished. According to the brief biography of Elizabeth Gaskell included at the beginning of my copy of Wives and Daughters, the book was appearing as a serial in Cornhill Magazine at the time of her death. She was unable to complete the final installment before she died. While there is a note from the editor of the magazine at the end of the book, which explains what would have happened had Gaskell been able to complete the story, the ending is very abrupt. The mini-series does not conclude quite as suddenly as the novel, though it ends somewhat differently.

Though I enjoyed the BBC mini-series more than Gaskell’s original novel, I am glad that I took the time to read it. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences between the two, and the novel has given me an increased appreciation for just how good the mini-series is. If you decide to watch the mini-series or read the book, I hope that you will enjoy Wives and Daughters as much as I did.

Unlike most of my previous weekly reading goals, next week’s goal is not necessarily specific to the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. If you’ve been paying attention to my Goodreads feed (at the bottom right of the page), you’ve probably noticed that two of the books I’m currently reading have been stuck at the same level of completion for quite some time. My reading goal for next week is to complete both of those books. While I will likely continue to read several books at once (an old habit from taking multiple English classes at the same time in college), I would like to limit myself to reading no more than two books at a time for the foreseeable future.

I hope to be able to give you a favorable report on my progress with those books in next Saturday’s POPSUGAR Reading Challenge update. Throughout the week, I hope you’ll visit The Unapologetic Bookworm for manga and comic book recommendations, as well as a review of a hilarious nonfiction book.

Happy Easter!

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