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Sylvia's Lovers

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Book Overview: 

The novel begins in the 1790s in the coastal town of Monkshaven. Sylvia Robson lives with her parents on a farm, and is loved by her rather dull Quaker cousin Philip. She, however, meets and falls in love with Charlie Kinraid, a sailor on a whaling vessel, and they become engaged, although few people know of the engagement. But Charlie gets press-ganged and has to leave without a word. (Summary from Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .On his way from the town he had met Kinraid wandering about in search of Haytersbank Farm itself, so he had just brought him along with him; and here they were, ready for bread and cheese, and aught else the mistress would set before them.

To Sylvia the sudden change into brightness and bustle occasioned by the entrance of her father and the specksioneer was like that which you may effect any winter's night, when you come into a room where a great lump of coal lies hot and slumbering on the fire; just break it up with a judicious blow from the poker, and the room, late so dark, and dusk, and lone, is full of life, and light, and warmth.

She moved about with pretty household briskness, attending to all her father's wants. Kinraid's eye watched her as she went backwards and forwards, to and fro, into the pantry, the back-kitchen, out of light into shade, out of the shadow into the broad firelight where he could see and note her appearance. She wore. . . Read More

Community Reviews

A fine example of the Classic English Novel. Slow-paced and well drawn, it takes its time weaving you into its spell... and then all of the sudden you realize you can't rest until you find out how the painful dilemma is solved. Heartbreaking and beautiful. I loved it.

From BBC Radio 4:
1/2: Sylvia Dobson's cousin, Philip, lives for her, he loves her totally but Sylvia is in love with seafaring whaler, Charlie Kinraid. Gaskell's last (completed) novel is set in Yorkshire. Set in the 1790's - the time of the Napoleonic wars. It takes place in Monkshaven (ie.Whitb...more

Año 1796. Inglaterra está inmersa en las cruentas guerras napoleónicas y, pese a su aislamiento en las lejanas tierras del norte, los habitantes de Monkshaven también sufren con el conflicto. Sus marineros, curtidos en la pesca de la ballena, no solo deben enfrentarse a los peligros propios de su...more

I am so excited that I have discovered Elizabeth Gaskell! I'm anxious to read all of her books - two down, four to go. I love the way Gaskell describes how a historic crises affects ordinary people. In "North and South", it is a strike within the textile industry. In "Sylvia's Lovers", it is the...more

In spite of the racy title, this book has no sex in it whatever. It was written in a simpler age, when Lovers meant people who loved someone. So, if you're looking for salacious writing, you've come to the wrong place.

I've recently found an interest in Elizabeth Gaskell when I saw the mini-series...more

This took me a little while to get into, but ultimately I loved it. The book is so dramatic and beautifully written, especially from the second half onwards, and the ending is so, so powerful. I love Elizabeth Gaskell's writing, and even if the dialect was a bar for me at first, I strongly recomm...more

Sylvia's Lovers is my second Elizabeth Gaskell and although I must say I enjoyed North and South more than this, there is something that makes me sure that the book and the characters in it will haunt me for a while. Taking a place in seaside town of England in 1790s, this is a story about Sylvia...more

This story is set in the whaling community of Whitby during the French Revolutionary Wars, long before conservation became an issue. It involves the emotional tensions between Sylvia, the ex-seaman-smuggler turned farmer's daughter and her two admirers, her unexciting, devoted cousin Philip Hepbu...more

This novel was such a find for me. I loved it from the outset, and it kept me with it almost all the way through. It seems extraordinary to me that this has generally been regarded as a minor work, and “one for the specialists.” For me, it was a potent and intelligent mid-Victorian novel, fully u...more

I listened to "Cousin Phyllis" earlier this year, so this book is an interesting contrast to it. Where Phyllis was educated and intelligent, Sylvia can barely read. She is content with her life on the farm, enjoys the open air and the animals and is not curious about life beyond this.
The book wa...more

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