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Molly Gibson, the only daughter of a widowed doctor in the small provincial town of Hollingford, lost her mother when she was a child. Her father remarries wanting to give Molly the woman's presence he feels she lacks. To Molly, any stepmother would have been a shock, but the new Mrs. Gibson is a self-absorbed, petty widow, and Molly's unhappiness is compounded by the realisation that her father has come to regret his second marriage.
Although Molly resents her stepmother, she befriends her new step-sister, Cynthia, who is loveable, but worldly and troubling. The audiobook chronicles their maturation into womanhood within the confines of the gossiping and watchful society of Hollingford.
As Molly matures and falls in love she learns to judge people for what they are, not what they seem. Through Molly, the social values and changes of early 19th century England are brought to life in this timeless representation of human relationships. The audiobook is more than just a nostalgic story of village life, it offers an ironic critique of mid-Victorian society.
Known as her last, longest, and perhaps finest work, it was not quite complete when Gaskell died suddenly in 1865. The last section was written by Frederick Greenwood.
Prunella Scales is a classically trained stage actress but is best known for her role as Sybil Fawlty in the BBC comedy Fawlty Towers (1975-1979) and for her role as Queen Elizabeth II in A Question of Attribution (1991) for which she was nominated a BAFTA. Her film appearances have included Stiff Upper Lips (1997), Howard's End (1992) and Wolf (1994). She was awarded the CBE for her services to drama in 1992 and the Patricia Rothermere Award for her contributions to British Theatre in 2001. More recent appearances have included the mini-series The Shell Seekers (2006), a production of Carrie's War at the Apollo Theatre (2009), Horrid Henry: The Movie (2013) and a guest appearance in the popular BBC radio comedy Cabin Pressure (2013). Julian Barnes' The Lemon Table and Anne Fine's Charm School are among the many audiobooks Prunella Scales has narrated.