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A Dark Night's Work

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Book Overview: 

Love, murder and class commentary in Mrs Gaskell's usual brilliant style! This novel was originally serialized and published by Charles Dickens, with whom Mrs Gaskell had several disagreements. She chose to avoid melodrama and concentrate on psychological realism to produce a moving story of people meeting and parting across class divides.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .bove him,” “claiming connection with the De Wintons of --- Castle, who, as she well knew, only laughed when he was spoken of, and said they were more rich in relations than they were aware of”—“not people papa would ever like her to know, whatever might be the family connection.”

These little speeches told in a way which the girl who uttered them did not intend they should.  Mrs. Corbet and her daughters set themselves violently against this foolish entanglement of Ralph’s; they would not call it an engagement.  They argued, and they urged, and they pleaded, till the squire, anxious for peace at any price, and always more under the sway of the people who were with him, however unreasonable they might be, than of the absent, even though these had the wisdom of Solomon or the prudence and sagacity of his son Ralph, wrote an angry letter, saying that, as Ralph was of age, of course he had a right to please himself, t. . . Read More

Community Reviews

This was a very nice tale about a young lady who is quite devoted to her father. She is practically blind to his faults. She falls in love with a rather cold hero. Before she can marry her lover, though, a terrible tragedy strikes her family. The rest of the novella dwells on our heroine's abilit...more

Overall I think I prefer Gaskell's longer novels to her shorter works. As much as I loved some of the darker elements explored in this work, I was not invested in the characters and thought the plot was drawn out to the point of losing the suspense and tension of the story.

It is hard to review this story because it originally was serialized. And because of that there were plenty of repeats to keep new weekly readers of the story a prized of the story line.

If Gaskell had edited the story after the serialization, the narrative might have flowed better.

Una sensation novel tipicamente gaskelliana, cioè poco sensazionale e molto umana e introspettiva, dove il male, sempre in agguato, che sopraggiunge e sconvolge la vita di un uomo debole ma integerrimo non ha connotazioni soprannaturali ma è un qualcosa che riguarda particolarmente i tormenti int...more

This was an real treat to discover - a truly brilliant Elizabeth Gaskell novella that, while short, beats many of her longer novels for me. It is a fascinating tale of morality and guilt, of family and love and loyalty. Absolutely worth a read.

Sort of a Gothic novel, but of the most genteel variety. Ellinor Wilkins is a much-doted-upon daughter of a middle-class attorney. She has a routinely pleasant life, a burgeoning romantic relationship with the local apprentice curate, friends and servants who care for her, and THEN. Something awf...more

“Oh my God! one little hour ago I was innocent of this man’s blood!“

Thus speaks Edward Wilkins, a successful country lawyer, after he has struck down his business partner in a temper, thereby causing the man’s death. However, ill-luck will have it that his own daughter Ellinor, the only family me...more

This is only my second time reading Gaskell and I had problems getting into the story in the first few chapters. I don't know if it got better or I got used to it but I ended up really enjoying this book.
I used to think Gaskell was a sort of more modern Jane Austen, who focused on social causes,...more

Elizabeth Gaskell is superb at writing about the psychological effects of negative life choices - how they haunt and dog us. In this short novel, through anger and drunkenness, a murder is committed that is hurriedly covered up under cover of darkness. The effects of this night's work haunt the m...more

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