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A very powerfully moving novel of a young woman caught between the attractions of two very different men, Sylvia’s Lovers is set in the 1790s in an English seaside town. England is at war with France, and press-gangs wreak havoc by seizing young men for service. One of their victims is a whaling harpooner named Charley Kinraid, whose charm and vivacity have captured the he A very powerfully moving novel of a young woman caught between the attractions of two very different men, Sylvia’s Lovers is set in the 1790s in an English seaside town. England is at war with France, and press-gangs wreak havoc by seizing young men for service. One of their victims is a whaling harpooner named Charley Kinraid, whose charm and vivacity have captured the heart of Sylvia Robson. But Sylvia’s devoted cousin, Philip Hepburn, hopes to marry her himself and, in order to win her, deliberately withholds crucial information—with devastating consequences. The introduction discusses the novel's historical and geographical authenticity, as well as its innovative treatment of gender and human relationships Includes a new chronology, updated further reading, notes, and appendices


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A very powerfully moving novel of a young woman caught between the attractions of two very different men, Sylvia’s Lovers is set in the 1790s in an English seaside town. England is at war with France, and press-gangs wreak havoc by seizing young men for service. One of their victims is a whaling harpooner named Charley Kinraid, whose charm and vivacity have captured the he A very powerfully moving novel of a young woman caught between the attractions of two very different men, Sylvia’s Lovers is set in the 1790s in an English seaside town. England is at war with France, and press-gangs wreak havoc by seizing young men for service. One of their victims is a whaling harpooner named Charley Kinraid, whose charm and vivacity have captured the heart of Sylvia Robson. But Sylvia’s devoted cousin, Philip Hepburn, hopes to marry her himself and, in order to win her, deliberately withholds crucial information—with devastating consequences. The introduction discusses the novel's historical and geographical authenticity, as well as its innovative treatment of gender and human relationships Includes a new chronology, updated further reading, notes, and appendices

30 review for Sylvia's Lovers

  1. 5 out of 5

    MihaElla

    Fascinating tale about God and Love by a very Fine authoress who felt to dedicate her novel (1863) to her dear husband, specifically with her own words “this book is dedicated to my dear husband by her who best knows his value”. This killed me, that is to say softly, and, guess what? It (again) led me into the fire of temptation! Poor sinful me! But, for a complete confession: I have sinned so far only with Gaskell – not before! God forbid! This is my second chance to be and get redeemed – but, Fascinating tale about God and Love by a very Fine authoress who felt to dedicate her novel (1863) to her dear husband, specifically with her own words “this book is dedicated to my dear husband by her who best knows his value”. This killed me, that is to say softly, and, guess what? It (again) led me into the fire of temptation! Poor sinful me! But, for a complete confession: I have sinned so far only with Gaskell – not before! God forbid! This is my second chance to be and get redeemed – but, alas! If only I knew I am so full of human weakness, which is to say I am not, haha ;)) Truly, sometimes just few lines of text can mark one for good, at least for some long time to make it different in the case of the respective person. I knew I wanted to read more of her works – after ‘North and South’ made me get my flight into the heaven of earth, so to say it is also here, on ground, not just to be found flying up on the white fluffy clouds… I wanted to read more about love, of course! Why not! So, what links best with love? Why, surely: Lovers! What can sound better or more irresistible than Lovers in the title of a book? And it is not just one (lover), but a plural word. Wonderful to have found this book – Sylvia’s Lovers! Though, despite my awaken sentiments and feelings, reason wise I think it is an exaggeration of a life tale, well but then again in prose fiction that is allowed too, isn’t it? So I took the grand slalom and put my finger on the last page - it was not clear what happened in the story, so I moved backwards like a crab, something started to glitter and I got some pieces of the puzzle put together, but it was not a sunny bright warm sunshine ray, it was just a filmy gloomy mist, ahh, no! This is an ill-fated tale. I got so sorry, even before starting to read the first page chronologically wise, that is to say, I have suffered for each and every page I have read from the start to the end of it. Fine! I had to pay for my sin, just make it even: you cheat, then you give something back, isn’t it?…So, what to do now but just embrace myself tightly and dive deep into the unknown wild wide ocean of this complicated history. And it was indeed a perilous adventure, as it is always for me having in mind that I still didn’t learn swimming, though I love the sea “with its ceaseless waves lapping against the shelving shore” so greatly, same like its immensity, and, oddly enough, this acts like a leitmotiv in the novel too, from start to end: the sea and its unfathomable depth is the landscape for this story of regrets and hopes, more or less vain, except those wishes that lay profoundly hidden in the soul, awaiting the awakening and fulfilment beyond the dim horizon, or better said, behind the veil of the sea… There are some very touching chapters of the novel, too melodramatic, which made me think on the Indian drama movies (well, those that I’ve seen in my early youth with my parents rolling out in the cinema). I couldn’t stop my mind winding and rewinding some couple of songs that seemed latent in my memory archive, no special reason to have them circulated within my ears or even by chance to get on them, one saying “Love hurts” by Nazareth (lyrics copy-paste at the end of the review) and the other “Love of my life” (of course, sung by no one else than Queen, Freddie Mercury)… Anyhow, there are only two lovers of Sylvia’s, I thought they are more, but curiously enough, they are yet just two. Well, good that they are! Sometimes they don’t exist at all! To tell the truth, on one side, the background of the story, in a sense its historical setting, put me a bit in difficulty because of my ignorance. I was introduced in the plot of the story somewhere in the very far away year of 1793 till beginning of 1800, in the area of north-eastern English coast. There was a war, violence and riots – people are killed or kidnapped by press-gangs to fill the “men-to-war” ships – between some British, French, Turks, other nations somewhere in Jerusalem…, famine, starvation, hard living conditions in the small coastal towns in the northern part of England, complex and difficult as always human relations, with emphasis on human passions – love and jealousy – and the difficulty of learning the lesson and power of forgiveness, the conscience-stricken impact of a lie in spoiling a human life, etc, etc, eventually, it is a bigger story about the life of sailors, shopkeepers, and peasants. That seemed to be a very particular epoch and I was sadly impressed by the system (well, why not, we can call it as such) of impressment in the British navy, and the doings (actually, wrong-doings) of the press-gang activities along the coasts, the hardships it inflicted, the indignation it aroused, the consequences in the local families. I had to learn more about the history of this “system”, so I googled Wikipedia, and some light was shed on the darkness of my ignorance. Now I feel much, but much better! On the other side, I was greatly interested in the tale of Sylvia’s life and her surrounding relatives, that is to say, I was touched deeply by the tale of the unvarnished joys and sorrows of a few simple folks. Now, having them as a closed story, I feel my sympathy goes to the two main characters – Sylvia and Philip - in equal quantity, although during the story-telling flow I have had my partisanship inclination. They were not perfect – far from it – but they strived to be themselves according to their own interpretation and understanding. So sad to love, as per individual pattern of love, and to feel and know that love is not returned. Yeah, this is most difficult to comprehend. Better not try to, just skip this stage. Best is to enjoy the feel of love and move further, and let free, release rapidly the outburst of agonized and unrequited love. More to come, if only it is invited, that is to say, Love is always shyly knocking at the door, if only we don’t shut it with heavy locks and keys… ≪ “Oh, Sylvie, let me help yo'! I cannot do what God can,—I'm not meaning that, but I can do next to Him of any man. I have loved yo' for years an' years, in a way it's terrible to think on, if my love can do nought now to comfort yo' in your sore distress.” ≫ ≪ “With God all things are possible,' said she, repeating the words as though to lull her anxiety to rest. Yes; with God all things are possible. But ofttimes He does his work with awful instruments. There is a peacemaker whose name is Death.” ≫ I am glad this fine, lengthy book somehow fell to my lot, its charm attracted me from backwards (final scene) to beginning (for your information, or as a warning, it’s better not to proceed like this, it spoilts the moods…) and then gradually took hold of me with overpowering force, in spite of the difficult dialect (that actually increased my white hair with a dozen of threads..), and I venture to call it a favourite now. It is one of the saddest stories I ever read. It wasted me a full pack of tissues last night, which reminds me that sometimes it’s good to over-stock (one never knows when some extra tissue is sadly needed). It feels as a sort of balm to my conscience that I have read it, and my heart is being now almost too full for words… “Love hurts” Love scars Love wounds and marks Any heart not tough or strong enough To take a lot of pain, take a lot of pain Love is like a cloud, it holds a lot of rain Love hurts Ooh love hurts I'm young I know But even so I know a thing or two, I learned from you I really learned a lot, really learned a lot Love is like a flame, it burns you when it's hot Love hurts Ooh love hurts Some fools think Of happiness, blissfulness, togetherness Some fools fool themselves, I guess They're not foolin' me I know it isn't true I know it isn't true Love is just a lie made to make you blue Love hurts Ooh love hurts Ooh love hurts I know it isn't true I know it isn't true Love is just a lie made to make you blue Love hurts Ooh love hurts Ooh, love hurts, ooh “Love of my life” Love of my life, you've hurt me You've broken my heart and now you leave me Love of my life, can't you see? Bring it back, bring it back Don't take it away from me, because you don't know What it means to me Love of my life, don't leave me You've stolen my love, you now desert me Love of my life, can't you see? Bring it back, bring it back Don't take it away from me, because you don't know What it means to me You will remember When this is blown over Everything's all by the way When I grow older I will be there…

  2. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    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 Wives and Daughters (I bought the DVDs). Since then I've read a few more of her novels: Wives and Daughters, North and South, and now Sylvia's Lovers. I love the way this author looks into the hearts of 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 Wives and Daughters (I bought the DVDs). Since then I've read a few more of her novels: Wives and Daughters, North and South, and now Sylvia's Lovers. I love the way this author looks into the hearts of her characters. There are no villains, just people who struggle to find happiness. Sometimes in the process, they might injure others, but it is rarely malicious. Some of her characters are truely saintly in their efforts to do the right thing. You go away feeling as if you know every character better than you know yourself. Elizabeth Gaskell has amazing human insight. This story is not a romance. It is a redemption tale, beginning with establishing relationships and dynamics between characters, it progresses through tragedy and unexpected character development, to the end when moral courage triumphs over romance.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    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 recommend sticking with it. A brilliant novel. 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 recommend sticking with it. A brilliant novel.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Issicratea

    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 up to the level of the same author’s North and South. A couple of things I love about Elizabeth Gaskell: her willingness to engage properly (and not in a patronizing way) with working-class characters, and 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 up to the level of the same author’s North and South. A couple of things I love about Elizabeth Gaskell: her willingness to engage properly (and not in a patronizing way) with working-class characters, and the brilliant way in which she forges connections between personal histories and larger political themes. Among the great nineteenth-century English female novelists, George Eliot seems to me her only equal in those regards. I was interested to read in the—rather weak—introduction to the Penguin Classics edition that Gaskell was reading Adam Bede in 1859, during the time of her initial visit to Whitby, in Yorkshire, where Sylvia’s Lovers is set. Gaskell exploits the tough, feisty, cliff-hung Whitby superbly in the novel, drawing particularly on two aspects of the town’s history: its involvement in the whaling trade in Greenland until the early nineteenth century, and the role that smuggling played in its economy. Gaskell sets the novel in the 1790s, at the time of the Napoleonic Wars, which allows her to play off the anti-state agency of the smugglers against the state-sponsored violence of the press gangs raising manpower for the wars. This is handled very well and weaves its way right into the weft of the novel, in terms of both theme and plot. The characterisation in Sylvia’s Lovers I found quite magnificent. Gaskell makes a bold stake with Sylvia in getting us to sympathise with the figure who is generally the less sympathetic of female characters in nineteenth-century novels—beautiful, vain, volatile, impulsive—relegating the watchful, intelligent Hester, whom we would normally be called on to identify with, to a minor role. I liked both of them very much, as also the paired male characters, repressed Philip and strutting Kinraid; and the rich range of minor figures, such as Sylvia’s parents and their loyal farmhand Kester, all of whom are beautifully drawn. Philip, in particular—who is, in many ways, the key figure in the novel—seems to me quite a remarkable portrait, but there is no one, even down to quite minor characters, who does not get his or her due. There are some aspects of this novel that are not so great. It’s true, as critics have said, that it descends into melodrama to some extent in its last third, and it never quite recaptures the wonderful pacing of the first third. I suspect there are mitigating circumstances for this; I gather from the introduction to my edition that Gaskell was under pressure to finish the novel, and the ending was very probably rushed. Who cares, though? It would be great to find a novel that worked all the way through, but how rarely does that happen? What we have here is a sharply characterised, interestingly structured, intellectually engaged novel, written by a great writer at the top of her game. Perhaps that will do!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Available free at Librivox, here: https://librivox.org/sylvias-lovers-b... The Librivox version has unfortunately several narrators! They range from very good to terrible. Overall, the listening experience is thus choppy, disconnected and not enjoyable, despite that you can for the most part hear the words. The narration, as a whole, I have given two stars; it’s OK. There is a heavy use of patois, which is not always easy to comprehend, particularly when the narration is mumbled or indistinct. Th Available free at Librivox, here: https://librivox.org/sylvias-lovers-b... The Librivox version has unfortunately several narrators! They range from very good to terrible. Overall, the listening experience is thus choppy, disconnected and not enjoyable, despite that you can for the most part hear the words. The narration, as a whole, I have given two stars; it’s OK. There is a heavy use of patois, which is not always easy to comprehend, particularly when the narration is mumbled or indistinct. The multiple narrators do give the listener the opportunity to consider the extent to which a narrator influences one’s comprehension and appreciation of a book. Analyzing this I found rather interesting. What do you do if you have enjoyed your way through a book but the conclusion takes a turn not to your liking? I was going to give the book four stars but reduced it to three. The change in tone and focus as the book approaches its end is not to my liking. It turns didactic, moral, religious. A lesson is to be learned and a message is to be conveyed. That the story itself is sad doesn’t bother me in the least. Elizabeth Gaskell declared this novel to be “the saddest story I ever wrote.” The book describes life in England on the rugged northeastern coast of Yorkshire during the last decade of the 1700s. This was during the Napoleonic Wars—the French and the English saw each other as enemies. Smuggling and press gangs were an ingredient of daily life. Young men, the lifeblood of the community, predominantly sailors, whalers and harpooners, were being seized and forced into service to fight against the French. I very much like the description of Yorkshire life, of the town, the sea, the people and their way of life. All of this is intimately drawn through the story’s characters. Life on the coast is harsh but at the same time atmospherically drawn. The blend of realism and beauty fits me to a T. The story has very good character portrayal. We see individuals diametrically opposed. I like the variety. We come to understand the different characters, both their innate character traits and how life experiences mold them. Two men love Sylvia but each in their own very different way. Which is best? What is that spark of love? How do you describe the magic of it? Can love arise in response to another’s steadfast devotion? These are the questions the book circles around. Good writing and good character portrayal are delivered here in this book. I like its accurate historical content. I don’t like the lesson it tries to teach us at the end. I believe in and value love’s natural spark. As always, I separate my rating of the book from the audiobook narration. **************************** *Wives and Daughters 4 stars *Mary Barton 4 stars *Ruth 4 stars *Sylvia's Lovers 3 stars *Cousin Phillis 3 stars *North and South 2 stars *Cranford 2 stars *Mr. Harrison's Confessions 1 star *The Old Nurse's Story TBR

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    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 British military practice of impressment (referred to as "the press gangs") during the French wars with Napoleon. I also love how Gaskell juxtaposes different characters to highlight various strengths an 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 British military practice of impressment (referred to as "the press gangs") during the French wars with Napoleon. I also love how Gaskell juxtaposes different characters to highlight various strengths and weaknesses. Philip Hepburn and Charley Kinraid both love Sylvia, but one is steady, conservative, and predictable whereas the other is passionate, visionary, and unreliable. It would be nice to create the perfect lover by combining the two of them, but there is no such thing as a perfect man; so I had fun trying to decide who would make the better choice. Finally, I really enjoy Gaskill's themes of innocence, deceit, forgiveness, and redemption. Even though her characters lived long ago, I could still relate and participate in their joys, sorrows, and lessons about life.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lucinda Elliot

    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 Hepburn and the dashing, handsome Specksioneer (Chief Harpooner) Charley Kinraid. When Kinraid is injured trying to protect his fellow sailors from a press gang, he becomes Sylvia's hero. He is attracted to t 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 Hepburn and the dashing, handsome Specksioneer (Chief Harpooner) Charley Kinraid. When Kinraid is injured trying to protect his fellow sailors from a press gang, he becomes Sylvia's hero. He is attracted to the pasionate young girl, and soon they start to fall in love, while Heputrn, who worships Sylvia, is in a state of jealous despair... This is an intriguing read, not only because the historical background is well researched and the writing lively, but because everyone seems to interpret what the author was trying to accomplish differently. I changed my original view after a fascinating discussion with another reviewer on Amazon. I had subscribed to the view of the critic TJ Winnifrith that 'Kinraid is finally shown to be a shallow character, but the portrayal of him is always so superficial that one finds it hard to understand the depths of Sylvia's love for him'. I now think that in the 'cardboard' depiction of Kinraid, who is a swaggering, macho, fearless, hard drinking womanising type without any of those little weaknesses that endear a character to the reader is deliberate. Gaskell is possibly trying to posit him as comparatively unsympathetic. She may well have been trying to create a new type of hero (in line with one of her short stories, I think) in Philip Hepburn, who is not physical, can't drink, not dashing, and is only interested in Sylvia. This protective love of Hepburn for Sylvia, this obsessive devotion,leads him to behave with miserable treachery. When Kinraid is press-ganged, and he begs Hepburn as sole witness to explain to Sylvia what has become of him, knowing Kinraid's reputation for fickleness, Hepburn persuades himself that the message is worthless, and keeps silent. But Kinraid returns... I didn't personally find Hepburn an attractive character, but I did feel sorry for him. Kinraid is too egotistical and successful to engage the reader's sympathy for long. In his later career as a Naval Officer, he would necessarily have colluded with the press gangs he once opposed to the point of murder in his confrontation with the press gang on board the'Good Fortune' as Naval Captains in the French Revolutionary Wars had to, and I am surprised that only a few critics comment on the shameless opportunism and self interest that this implies (Graham Handley is one in his excellent 'Sylvia's Lovers' Oxford Notes, 1968). Some might argue that Charley Kinraid was right both to oppose the press gang when it operated illegally, and later to support its 'legal' use as a Captain himself. But as the writer of the 'Hornblower' novels points out, those rules were necessarily ignored, because it was impossible to raise enough men to form a crew if a Captain complied with them. Personally, I think on balance he was quite right to fight it out with them on the first occasion, but should have tried to avoid killing them. Sylvia is a silly, engaging, illiterate young girl who matures into a bitterly intense young women. I felt for her. Whatever your interpretation you will find this an interesting read. I wrote an article on this for the F word (I don't think I am allowed to link it here) and in it, I had a go at summing up the book in a sentence; here it is: 'Philip Hepburn worships Sylvia Robson, and finds dishonour; Sylvia Robson worships Charley Kinraid, and finds disillusionment. Charley Kinraid worships himself, and finds an heiress who agree with him and a career in the Royal Navy.'

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    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.Whitby). The Press Gangs were always lurking when the whale boats were returning from Greenland with their cargo. They intercepted the boats, seized the men and pressed them into service with the Royal Navy t 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.Whitby). The Press Gangs were always lurking when the whale boats were returning from Greenland with their cargo. They intercepted the boats, seized the men and pressed them into service with the Royal Navy to fight the French. 2/2: Sylvia marries Philip, believing Charlie to be dead. But chaos descends when Charlie returns, and Sylvia discovers Philip has lied to her. Set in Yorkshire in the 1790's - the time of the Napoleonic wars, in Monkshaven (ie.Whitby), during the time of the Press Gangs, who intercepted the fishing boats, seized the men and pressed them into service with the Royal Navy to fight the French. Elizabeth Gaskell ...... Barbara Flynn Sylvia ...... Jodie Comer Philip ...... Graeme Hawley Charlie Kinraid ...... Chris Connel Bell ...... Siobhan Finneran Daniel ..... Paul CopleySylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell Dramatised by Ellen Dryden Kester/Donkin ...... Jonathan Keeble Molly ...... Nichola Burley Mrs. Corney ....... Olwen May Produced/directed by Pauline Harris. Free download available at Project Gutenberg. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072htqt 4* North and South 2* Mary Barton 4* Wives And Daughters 3* Cranford 4* Curious, If True: Strange Tales 2* Ruth 3* Right at Last 4* Sylvia's Lovers TR My Lady Ludlow TR The Life of Charlotte Brontë

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lynn

    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. 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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sylvester

    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 was good, but it irritated me as well. I didn't like any of the the male characters (unlike "Cousin Phyllis"). The choice of lovers Sylvia had was not so awesome, in my opinion. To me, neither one knew her 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 was good, but it irritated me as well. I didn't like any of the the male characters (unlike "Cousin Phyllis"). The choice of lovers Sylvia had was not so awesome, in my opinion. To me, neither one knew her, and their "love" was based on physical attraction rather than true regard. I was relieved to read her husband's moment of epiphany at the end, and think the book worthwhile for that and a lot of other uncomfortable things it brings up about relationships. Do marriage partners need to be of relatively equal intelligence to have a successful relationship? What is the basis for a lasting relationship - chemistry or character? Actually, it's funny, now that I think of it - I didn't like Sylvia either. EG kept me going even though I didn't like anyone! Credit where it's due.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Petra

    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 Robson, who is caught between two very different but striking men. It is a powerful and sad book; it almost felt like reading a Greek tragedy taking a place in Victorian era. I thoroughly enjoyed the bo 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 Robson, who is caught between two very different but striking men. It is a powerful and sad book; it almost felt like reading a Greek tragedy taking a place in Victorian era. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and think that Gaskell is really skilled at building up interesting characters that both annoy and break your heart.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tristram Shandy

    “’[…] She doesn’t fancy thee, and fancy is three parts o’ love, if reason is t’other fourth.” Ironically, these words, which Philip Hepburn uses to make his friend understand that he is pining for a woman he will never attain, apply to himself no less than to the person he directs them to. Even more ironically, he does not realize this because his love for his cousin Sylvia Robson is stronger than his common sense, and even stronger than his moral and religious principles. Sylvia’s Lovers, one of “’[…] She doesn’t fancy thee, and fancy is three parts o’ love, if reason is t’other fourth.” Ironically, these words, which Philip Hepburn uses to make his friend understand that he is pining for a woman he will never attain, apply to himself no less than to the person he directs them to. Even more ironically, he does not realize this because his love for his cousin Sylvia Robson is stronger than his common sense, and even stronger than his moral and religious principles. Sylvia’s Lovers, one of Elizabeth Gaskell’s lesser known novels was written in 1863 but is actually set some 70 years earlier when England was engaged in the Napoleonic Wars and when press-gangs were a constant threat to sailors and also farmers living near the coast. Monkshaven – somewhere I read that the place was actually modelled on Whitby – is such a coastal town, its economy being mainly based on whaling and the homecoming whalers being more or less easy pickings for the press-gangs. The plot revolves around Sylvia Robson, a rather spoilt and wilful 17-year old girl, whose parents run a farm outside Monkshaven and are relatively well-off. Sylvia is the object of veneration to her cousin Philip Hepburn, her mother’s nephew, who works in a local shop, has splendid prospects as to his future in the business and embodies all the virtues of Quakerism because he grew up among Quakers. Sylvia, however, does not really care a lot about her cousin, whom she thinks a bore and a spoilsport. Instead she falls for Charles Kinraid, a specksioneer, i.e. a chief harpooner, and a dashing young sailor at that, who easily finds favour with Sylvia’s rough-and-ready father, who used to go to sea himself in his younger days. Philip, who still rather awkwardly courts his cousin, realizes more and more that there is little hope for him when one day he witnesses how his rival is waylaid and overwhelmed by a press-gang. Kinraid, on discovering his sweetheart’s cousin, asks Philip to tell Sylvia that she should wait for him. Philip, however, does not do this and keeps silence when one word from him could have dispersed all rumours of Charles Kinraid’s death by drowning. His reason for leaving everybody in the dark is, so he tells himself, not primarily the fact that now his major obstacle to Sylvia’s heart is happily out of the way, but what he heard other people say of Kinraid, namely that he is a womanizer with a fickle heart. It seems clear to Philip that he would not do his duty by Sylvia if he passed on Kinraid’s message to her, thus making her wait years and years for someone who might never come back and who might even have forgotten her. Circumstances further seem to favour Philip because not only does he rise to become one of the two shop-owners but his cousin’s family falls into great distress, and he stands by them, thus obtaining Sylvia’s gratefulness, and it is, I’m sorry to say, out of gratefulness and out of a wish to provide for her mother that Sylvia finally agrees to marry her cousin. One day, however, Charles Kinraid comes back to his old hometown – and the cry of a baby will play a great role in determining the fates of three people. At times, the story is melodramatic, but most often Gaskell manages to give a detailed and colourful portrait of her characters: Sylvia might be very naïve and also spoilt, but can we really condemn her for preferring Kinraid to Hepburn? I must admit that during the first half of the book, the sensible, economic, learned Philip did not really warm my heart towards him, whereas I found myself strongly rooting for Kinraid, but my bias changed in the course of the novel when I realized that Philip was really serious about his cousin. His earnest motives and his conviction of his rival’s unworthiness might not give him the right to deceive his cousin and to deny her the chance to decide for herself, but still I found it possible to understand his motives better, and I felt sorry for him because whatever he did, it failed to make Sylvia happy. Gaskell also manages to draw very lifelike pictures of Sylvia’s parents so that I was actually very sorry when later on their misfortune took its course. Especially her mother came over as very realistic – in fact, she reminded me not a little of my grandmother – in her mixture of devotion to her family and her no-nonsense attitude. What I sometimes found a little bit jarring was that Gaskell tends to shift between perspectives very immediately so that from one paragraph to another the reader suddenly sees the action through another character’s eye. To me this was sometimes confusing because Gaskell’s omniscient narrator tends to adopt the point of view of some of his characters, almost using them as focalizers, but the rather frequent and abrupt change of these focalizers always reminds the reader of the fact that there is, after all, an omniscient narrator hovering above it all. I also had the impression that the more we got towards the end of the novel the more hurried the author seemed; after all, very important events like (view spoiler)[the rescuing of Sylvia and Philip’s child, or the process of Sylvia’s realizing her feelings for Philip (hide spoiler)] are dealt with in very few strokes, which stands in contrast to the epic and opulent narrative style of most other parts of the novel. I found this a pity because I could have gone on reading Sylvia’s Lovers for quite another while without feeling bored. Elizabeth Gaskell is reported to have said that this book was the saddest story she ever wrote. Now I must confess that Sylvia’s Lovers was the first Gaskell novel I ever read (so I don’t know if there are not sadder stories still), and that I found it quite sad, with touches of melodrama here and there, but especially successful in creating a microcosm with believable and, for all their faults, likeable characters. I really liked that even Sylvia spoke a regional dialect – you could bet a Dickens heroine wouldn’t have done that – and that she had her faults but still manages to arouse our pity and understanding. Philip’s tragedy seems even greater than Sylvia’s since, after all, he could have decided otherwise, while Sylvia’s decisions were largely manipulated by Philip – and this raises the question whether there is such a thing as a pia fraus, i.e. lying or keeping silent about the truth for the sake of some higher good. So it is not only a sad, but an incredibly rich story, and it definitely kindled my interest in Mrs. Gaskell and her works.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    This was Gaskell’s only work of historical fiction and a fascinating insight into the press gangs of the time. A tragic story.

  14. 4 out of 5

    TBV

    “Indeed, all along the coast of Yorkshire, it seemed as if a blight hung over the land and the people.” ’Sylvia's Lovers’ is set during the time of the Anglo-French War (1778-1783). At this time so-called "press gangs" would frequently kidnap men to cart them off to war. They would lie in wait for the whaling ships returning from Greenland, and then many of these men who had finally just about made it back home would be hauled off, leaving many a weeping loved one on the shore. “Men w “Indeed, all along the coast of Yorkshire, it seemed as if a blight hung over the land and the people.” ’Sylvia's Lovers’ is set during the time of the Anglo-French War (1778-1783). At this time so-called "press gangs" would frequently kidnap men to cart them off to war. They would lie in wait for the whaling ships returning from Greenland, and then many of these men who had finally just about made it back home would be hauled off, leaving many a weeping loved one on the shore. “Men were kidnapped, literally disappeared, and nothing was ever heard of them again.” The young, beautiful Sylvia, “captious, capricious, wilful, haughty, merry, charming”, is admired by all and sundry, but loved by two men: the dashing Charley Kinraid, popular with the ladies, and Sylvia's cousin Philip Hepburn who had long carried a torch for her. One of these men would be kidnapped; the other would stay behind with a guilty secret and continue to woo the beautiful Sylvia. A thread of unrequited and/or thwarted love runs through the novel. Two men love Sylvia, but she loves only one of them. The quiet, hardworking Hester loves Philip, but we already know that his attention is elsewhere. Philip's colleague Coulson loves Hester, but… Philip and Coulson's employer John loved Hester's mother Alice, but she married someone else. Bessy Corney loves Kinraid, but… To reinforce the theme Elizabeth Gaskell also alludes to the biblical “Jacob's twice seven years' service for Rachel” as well as Goethe's 'The Sorrows of Werther'. I haven't read the latter, but as an opera lover I am very familiar with Massenet's opera 'Werther' in which Werther is besotted with Charlotte who marries another. All of this longing for what one cannot have inevitably leads to heartache and tragedy. When one of Sylvia's admirers thinks that he finally gets what he wants, he doesn't actually get what he wants. Ultimately this is also a tale of forgiveness and redemption. The young Sylvia will learn a great deal from her experiences through these years and will come to reflect on her earlier words: “’It's not in me to forgive; I sometimes think it's not in me to forget.’” Author Elizabeth Gaskell has a nifty trick of making the more unlikeable characters likeable and those that one might normally like better, like less. This is what I mean: Sylvia is capricious and not always very nice at all, yet she is loved by many and the reader gets to love her too; Hester who has many good qualities becomes mere wallpaper in the background; Philip who does so many good things appears unlikeable, and Kinraid who is rumoured to be a cad is a hero. All topsy-turvy. This novel is sentimental. It is melodramatic. It tugs at the heartstrings and might make one reach for some tissues. But it is a very good snapshot of that time and place. Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) was a near contemporary and these events will still have been fresh in people's memory. She writes beautifully, but she also includes Yorkshire dialect from that period which adds a small but not insurmountable challenge to the reader. There are also twists, turns and unlikely coincidences. ##### “But for twenty miles inland there was no forgetting the sea, nor the sea-trade; refuse shell-fish, seaweed, the offal of the melting-houses, were the staple manure of the district; great ghastly whale-jaws, bleached bare and white, were the arches over the gate-posts to many a field or moorland stretch." "T' lass upstairs 'll like nought better than t' curl hersel' round a secret, and purr o'er it, just as t' oud cat does o'er her blind kitten." "And then the dread Inner Creature, who lurks in each of our hearts, arose and said, 'It is as well: a promise given is a fetter to the giver. But a promise is not given when it has not been received.'" "Then he went on to wonder if the lives of one generation were but a repetition of the lives of those who had gone before, with no variation but from the internal cause that some had greater capacity for suffering than others. Would those very circumstances which made the interest of his life now, return, in due cycle, when he was dead and Sylvia was forgotten?" "She had not gone a yard—no, not half a yard—when her heart leaped up and fell again dead within her, as if she had been shot." "Them as one thinks t' most on, forgets one soonest.”

  15. 5 out of 5

    Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)

    Sylvia's Lovers (1863) is one of Elizabeth Gaskell's later novels, followed only by Cousin Phillis (1864) and my favorite work of hers, Wives and Daughters (1866). Sylvia's Lovers reflects a more mature and sophisticated writing style than her earlier works like Mary Barton, North and South, and Cranford. The plot is fascinating and quite engaging. It is set during the mid-1790s in the small coastal whaling community of 'Monkshaven' modeled on Whitby that Gaskell visited in 1859. The novel takes Sylvia's Lovers (1863) is one of Elizabeth Gaskell's later novels, followed only by Cousin Phillis (1864) and my favorite work of hers, Wives and Daughters (1866). Sylvia's Lovers reflects a more mature and sophisticated writing style than her earlier works like Mary Barton, North and South, and Cranford. The plot is fascinating and quite engaging. It is set during the mid-1790s in the small coastal whaling community of 'Monkshaven' modeled on Whitby that Gaskell visited in 1859. The novel takes place during the early years of the Napoleonic wars that consumed England, and much of the world, for the next twenty years. This is a book about the working class of northern England, the simple folk that farmed, manned the shops, and went to sea in whaling ships season after season. England's war with France changes everything though; and we see these changes come to Monkshaven through the eyes of young Sylvia Robson, her father and mother, and her cousin Philip Hepburn. While there is a deep-seated patriotic fervor among the residents of Monkshaven, there is also a profound anger at the government for its use of impressment gangs (press gangs) to find able-bodied men to man the ships of the Royal Navy. Men were forcibly taken from their families and livelihoods, assigned to ships, and sailed off to war; from which many never returned. Sylvia is an uneducated and relatively naive young woman more inclined to her flights of fancy rather than following the calm more steady influence of her mother. Sylvia's cousin, Philip, loves her with his heart and soul and endeavors to teach her to read, write, and to learn some arithmetic; but Sylvia only has eyes and feelings for her friend's cousin, the whaling harpooner, Charlie Kinraid. In large part, it is around this romantic triangle of Sylvia, Philip, and Charlie that the rest of the novel really turns. This is a novel about justice, injustice, the consequences of one's actions (or inactions), and the notion of real redemption and forgiveness. In this novel, Elizabeth Gaskell has created some very realistic characters that make decisions that some of us might question, but feel right for the character. Some of these decisions lead to some terrible and final outcomes. Ultimately though, the circle is closed and the novel's protagonists find the right paths. While the novel might not have a 'fairy-tale happy ending,' it is a realistic and, in my opinion, appropriate ending. Gaskell herself said that Sylvia's Lovers was "the saddest story I ever wrote." Another very important and interesting aspect of this novel is Gaskell's use of the vernacular and local dialect of the people she was writing about. In this case, her use of the dialect of Yorkshire in her character's dialogs give an incredibly gritty and earthy feel of authenticity to the novel; particularly the differences in speech between the educated and uneducated. I can also see how some readers could find this off-putting as it does take some 50-60 pages to become comfortable with the use of this local dialect. The Penguin Classics edition that I read has an excellent section of end-notes and an appendix that explains the Yorkshire dialect and defines many of the more obscure terms. Both, Gaskell, and her husband, William, were interested in local dialects, and she tried to accurately utilize local dialects in much of her fiction. I believe that English literature is that much richer for her efforts; as it is through her novels that we all gain a much clearer picture of the peoples and their ways of life in their own times. In my opinion, this book is right up there with her last novel, Wives and Daughters. Sylvia's Lovers is beautifully plotted and written, and a novel that I highly recommend.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mrsgaskell

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is my least favourite Gaskell so far. In fact, it wasn't until I'd read well over 100 pages that I began to enjoy the book. I struggled to get to that point and might have given up if it weren't for the fact that Elizabeth Gaskell is a favourite author of mine. The beginning is very descriptive and I found the dialect difficult and annoying. It wasn't helped by the fact that this particular edition has copious notes, many of which didn't seem necessary, but I'm unable to read without dutifu This is my least favourite Gaskell so far. In fact, it wasn't until I'd read well over 100 pages that I began to enjoy the book. I struggled to get to that point and might have given up if it weren't for the fact that Elizabeth Gaskell is a favourite author of mine. The beginning is very descriptive and I found the dialect difficult and annoying. It wasn't helped by the fact that this particular edition has copious notes, many of which didn't seem necessary, but I'm unable to read without dutifully referring to them. There were also some spoilers in the notes! The story is set in the late 18th century in the coastal Yorkshire town of Monkshaven (Whitby) where many of the men are employed on whaling ships. England is at war with France and press gangs are active, dragging men with seafaring experience into the navy. Sylvia is the attractive only daughter of a former harpooner turned farmer. She is loved by her cousin Philip Hepburn who works in the shop of Quaker merchants. Philip is serious, educated, and rather dull. It is clear from the start that Sylvia does not welcome his attentions and he doesn't seem very appealing to the reader either. Sylia witnesses the actions of the press gang on a visit to town, and it is as a result of this that she first meets Charley Kinraid, a specksioneer (harpooner) on one of the whaling vessels. She falls in love with him but he has a questionable reputation. Sylvia's father, Daniel Robson, likes Kinraid and allows them to become secretly engaged. Shortly after this Kinraid is press-ganged and the only witness is Philip Hepburn. Kinraid gives Hepburn a message for Sylvia. Not only does Philip not pass on the message, he allows Sylvia to believe the rumour of Kinraid's presumed drowning. He justifies his actions by his belief that Kinraid would not be true to her. Later, after Sylvia's father is hanged for his part in a conflict with the press gang, and her mother is in ailing health, Sylvia agrees to marry Philip and they subsequently have a child. Several years later, Kinraid returns to claim his affianced bride and Philip's deception is discovered. Sylvia vows never to forgive Philip but she cannot go with Kinraid. Philip leaves and joins the marines and he later saves Kinraid's life. Kinraid, who has been successful in the navy, appears to recover quickly from his love for Sylvia, and soon marries an heiress. Philip eventually returns to Monkshaven, a broken and disfigured man. He lives unknown and in poverty. It is only when he saves his daughter Bella from drowning that his identity becomes known, and he and Sylvia are reconciled at his deathbed. I think the characters in this novel are disappointing. Philip is dull, and although Gaskell tries to show his enduring love for Sylvia, I saw it more as an obsession and desire for possession, since by his deception he was willing to sacrifice her happiness for his. Kinraid is frequently absent and one isn't certain about his devotion to Sylvia, so he does not really appeal either as the romantic hero. And Sylvia herself is pretty and devoted to her mother but rather empty-headed. The characters I cared for the most were Hester Rose, the shop assistant who loved Philip constantly, and Kester, the farm labourer.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mona Zaneefer

    (Edit: After some thought, I'm giving this a tentative 4.) Maybe 3.5 stars? But something tells me that I may drop this rating to 3 stars down the line...or up it to 4. I think it's because of Philip Hepburn that I'd rather give this novel a 4 star rating as I enjoyed reading about him. Firstly, what a bad title. It's very off-putting. And it should have just been named Philip by Elizabeth Gaskell. As for the story, I was so immersed in it. Even when, somewhere in the middle, it did become a bit of (Edit: After some thought, I'm giving this a tentative 4.) Maybe 3.5 stars? But something tells me that I may drop this rating to 3 stars down the line...or up it to 4. I think it's because of Philip Hepburn that I'd rather give this novel a 4 star rating as I enjoyed reading about him. Firstly, what a bad title. It's very off-putting. And it should have just been named Philip by Elizabeth Gaskell. As for the story, I was so immersed in it. Even when, somewhere in the middle, it did become a bit of a drag, the novel sensed that the pace had to be picked up, and so it did. But while reading it, despite my liking for the story, I tried to pinpoint why I'd not be convinced on giving this 5 stars. And I think it had to do with the core conflict of the novel. Although the plot was engaging and moving, (view spoiler)[the conflict of Philip trying to win over Sylvia and Kinraid coming in the way or something coming in the way, lingered from start to end in such a stagnant fashion. Yes, the conflict developed, but its essence didn't alter and felt so drawn out that it was becoming wearisome. Especially to look at it from Philip's view - Gaskell didn't give the guy a break! That's why I honestly think the ending ruins it for me and is why I'm even hesitant about giving this at least 4 stars. It wasn't the right solution/ending for such a worn-out conflict. Should have just let Philip live. (hide spoiler)] I found this review on Wiki which I totally agree with: 'John McVeagh has pointed to a "sudden lapse into melodrama" which "reduces and cheapens an interesting story'. Gaskell's writing This was my first Gaskell novel and I do enjoy her writing. Although this particular book had strong dialect which took me sometime to get used to, Gaskell's writing in of itself is very accessible to understand. However, in comparison to her contemporaries, I don't think her characterisation or writing is as brilliant. Not to say her characterisation is poor or anything - far from it - but speaking in terms of craft alone, her characters aren't as multi-dimensional or nuanced as, for example, Eliot's or Hardy's. This is not at all a negative from Gaskell's novel but only an observation. I don't depend on extremely nuanced characters to like the story (because hello Mill on the Floss - such intricate characters for a book I'd rather throw in the fire), but just a side note from a writing perspective on differences in masterful characterisation. It's an individual element I appreciate on its own. The only character that would be the exception is Philip here. To an extent though. He wasn't multifaceted but he was thoroughly fleshed-out; we got inside his head and psyche. I really like him as a character! (view spoiler)[I hated how Sylvia treated him after their marriage. (hide spoiler)] Edit: I realise that, although I say Philip was fleshed out and we got inside his head, that did peter out in the last quarter of the novel. I read somewhere that some felt the story rushed in the end, and it does ring true when I remember that Philip’s thoughts weren’t as elaborate towards the end. What shame.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marquise

    I've got roughly the same observations to this novel as for "Ruth," although I did find the story here somewhat more interesting, and appreciated that Sylvia, the main character, had more spunk and was overall much better fleshed-out, for which I'd rate this as a more enjoyable read in spite of minor annoyances. I've got roughly the same observations to this novel as for "Ruth," although I did find the story here somewhat more interesting, and appreciated that Sylvia, the main character, had more spunk and was overall much better fleshed-out, for which I'd rate this as a more enjoyable read in spite of minor annoyances.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Cotterill

    From a masculine standpoint, *Sylvia’s Lovers* is not a promising title for a novel. It sounds like a Harlequin romance when, in fact, it is a marvellous evocation of life in a rugged Yorkshire whaling town in the late 1700s. The English are at war with the French (again) and the vividly depicted harbour town bustles with whaling activity while the King’s press gangs roam the narrow streets looking for able-bodied sailors they can strong-arm into a navy desperate for new recruits. As they make t From a masculine standpoint, *Sylvia’s Lovers* is not a promising title for a novel. It sounds like a Harlequin romance when, in fact, it is a marvellous evocation of life in a rugged Yorkshire whaling town in the late 1700s. The English are at war with the French (again) and the vividly depicted harbour town bustles with whaling activity while the King’s press gangs roam the narrow streets looking for able-bodied sailors they can strong-arm into a navy desperate for new recruits. As they make their daily rounds, the locals must walk furtively, resentfully watchful for the hated gangs. Emotions run high. There are outbreaks of violence. The lovers of the novel’s title are Philip Hepburn, an intelligent stooping local shop clerk, and Charlie Kinraid, a fine figure of a man who is a daring harpooner on a whaling ship. Sylvia is a pretty farm girl with an aversion to all book learning that does not involve the “Greenland seas” where the romantic Kinraid plies his perilous icy trade. The classic love triangle sets up when Philip loves Sylvia but *she* falls hard for Charlie Kinraid after he is wounded while bravely defending his shipmates from a press gang. (The name Kinraid is suggestive. Philip is a cousin of Sylvia’s and Kinraid is trespassing on a relationship blessed by Sylvia’s parents.) On the side, we have quiet self-effacing Hester Rose, who loves Philip with the constancy and devotion that men dream of but seldom find. When it comes to competing for Sylvia’s affections, bookish sombre Philip does not stand a dog’s chance against the manly Charlie Kinraid. And here is where the author sets out her theme. Every major character in the book, barring quick-witted Charlie, is relentlessly obtuse and self-defeating. Philip could have Hester’s abiding love, but barely notices the faithful young woman. Charlie is a known womanizer, but Sylvia will hear nothing said against him. Sylvia is a deliberate dunce, too tightly bound to her parents, and treats Philip with callous disregard, but the learned and sensitive Philip overlooks all. Instead of turning away, he masochistically continues to woo silly Sylvia in spite of her cruel slights and rebuffs. Hester refuses to declare her ardent love for Philip. Sylvia’s father foolishly leads a mob against an active press gang going about the King’s business. Sylvia’s mother cannot cope with her grief. When faced with disgrace, Philip runs off like a child who has wet himself rather than deal with the situation like a man. Naturally, his craven act wins him nothing but catastrophe. Gaskell is revealing just how weak, foolish, and self-defeating most people are. We turn away from what we could have, to chase things that can never be. We delude ourselves, ignore reality, and engage in the worst kinds of wishful thinking. We run away when we should make a stand. We make trouble when we should make peace. We hurt one another when, with just a little more intelligence, we could improve one another’s lives immensely. Gaskell’s theme is humanity’s most egregious and enduring flaw. Charlie Kinraid is Gaskell’s foil. Charlie is always effective. He is a first rate harpooner who always hits his mark. Even when captured by the press gangs he manages to pass a message for Sylvia to Philip (although Philip then betrays him). Once pressed into the navy, the capable and courageous Charlie buckles down and quickly rises to the rank of Captain. When he learns that Sylvia has married treacherous Philip in his forced absence, he simply finds himself another suitable woman (there are plenty of fish in the sea) and happily marries. Romantics, of course, will say that Charlie never really loved Sylvia, but a womanizer only comes back for his lady after such a long time if he truly cares for her. Naturally, this obvious fact is lost on muddle-headed Sylvia. Things end badly for all the obtuse self-defeaters while Charlie Kinraid, as is only fair and reasonable, comes through with flying colours. Gaskell points the way to happier lives. Have courage. Recognize, and responsibly look after, your real interests. Use your head. *Sylvia’s Lovers* is a rich and rewarding historical novel that does not romanticize foolish behaviour.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kupersmith

    The story held my attention throughout and I had to find out how it ended. Indeed, it reminded me too of Hardy, especially The Mayor of Casterbridge. As a realistic portrayal of a bleak world with no second chances, I felt the resolution appropriate. If I’d been Philip, I expect I’d have stayed at the alms house and read Peregrine Pickle. One of Smollett’s heroes would have had no qualms about sending his rival in love to the devil, much less the navy. In that sense, Sylvia’s Lovers is a very Vi The story held my attention throughout and I had to find out how it ended. Indeed, it reminded me too of Hardy, especially The Mayor of Casterbridge. As a realistic portrayal of a bleak world with no second chances, I felt the resolution appropriate. If I’d been Philip, I expect I’d have stayed at the alms house and read Peregrine Pickle. One of Smollett’s heroes would have had no qualms about sending his rival in love to the devil, much less the navy. In that sense, Sylvia’s Lovers is a very Victorian take on the 18th century. Aristotle specified in the Poetics that the best sort of tragic hero was an otherwise good man who committed a ‘hamartia’ which led to his downfall. I thought notion fits Philip quite well. Scholars argue about the meaning of ‘hamartia’, which in Greek can cover the whole range from pardonable mistakes to serious crimes. (In Jewish and Christian Greek used to translate the Hebrew word for ‘sin’ as well.) Whether Philip’s silence regarding Charley’s impressment was morally reprehensible may be open to question, but sufficiently ambiguous to give Philip grounds to quiet his conscience at the time. From the outcome though, it was definitely an error. Charley’s return destroyed his marriage. So as a tragedy, Sylvia’s Lovers works. But I did not find the novel a classic. A true classic is universal; it should exemplify the values of its own time and the concerns of future generations too. Though these days the Riot Act has a certain contemporary relevance, I doubt the press gang was still an issue in Gaskell’s day, much less in ours. (I can image a 20th century version of the story set in an American college, where Sylvia’s a cheerleader, Philip a nerd, and Charley an athlete who gets drafted and sent to Vietnam.) I quite liked the regional dialect, just as I do with Robert Burns and Mark Twain, but then I’ve read Beowulf in the original and love the way Yorkshire preserves older English forms. It amuses me how contemporary English people ridicule us Yanks for saying ‘gotten’- notice how Yorkshire also features ‘getten’.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    (note about the title: In today's language, it should be "Sylvia's Suitors". There is nothing inappropriate in this book.) Elizabeth Gaskell called this the saddest story she ever wrote, and I don't think I've read a book before with so many deaths and broken hearts. But I loved this book (written in 1863) and was hooked. This reminded me of reading a Thomas Hardy or George Eliot novel with its focus on the working class, use of local dialect, and pervading sadness. I got frustrated with the char (note about the title: In today's language, it should be "Sylvia's Suitors". There is nothing inappropriate in this book.) Elizabeth Gaskell called this the saddest story she ever wrote, and I don't think I've read a book before with so many deaths and broken hearts. But I loved this book (written in 1863) and was hooked. This reminded me of reading a Thomas Hardy or George Eliot novel with its focus on the working class, use of local dialect, and pervading sadness. I got frustrated with the characters (Hester- find a different man! Phillip- leave poor Sylvia alone!) but loved the setting (1790's English coast, when sailors were getting kidnapped into the British navy by press gangs), descriptions of the village and people, and Gaskell's masterful writing (which makes up for a story line that seems too melodramatic at times). Here's a great one-sentence summary of this story: "Philip Hepburn worships Sylvia Robson, and finds dishonour, Sylvia Robson worships Charley Kinraid, and finds disillusionment. Charley Kinraid worships himself, and finds a career in the Royal Navy and an heiress who agrees with him.” ― Lucinda Elliot Quotes: “Ay! but mother's words are scarce, and weigh heavy. Father's liker me, and we talk a deal o' rubble; but mother's words are liker to hewn stone. She puts a deal o' meaning in 'em.” “All the morning since he got up he had been trying to fight through his duties—leaning against a hope—a hope that first had bowed, and then had broke as soon as he really tried its weight. There was not a sign of Sylvia’s liking for him to be gathered from the most careful recollection of the past evening. It was of no use thinking there was. It was better to give it up altogether and at once. But what if he could not? What if the thought of her was bound up with his life; and that once torn out by his own free will, the very roots of his heart must come also?” "'I'll see what I can do; but, lad, I dunnot think she'll have thee. She doesn't fancy thee, and fancy is three parts o' love, if reason is t' other fourth'...and it would be hard, may-be, to get a reason for her not fancying him."(Such irony - Funny that Philip could see this so plainly in Hester. I wish Philip would apply this explanation to SYLVIA and accept that she just doesn't like HIM romantically, instead of persisting at all costs.)

  22. 5 out of 5

    K.

    3.5 stars. Definitely not Gaskell's best work, but still a pretty compelling story. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, this is a book that basically revolves around a love triangle that gets extra complicated when one corner of the love triangle gets pressganged. His romantic rival witnesses this and doesn't say anything to their mutual love interest. Here's the thing though: This entire story revolves around Charley NOT ONCE sending word. Like, 18 months pass between Charley being pressganged and 3.5 stars. Definitely not Gaskell's best work, but still a pretty compelling story. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, this is a book that basically revolves around a love triangle that gets extra complicated when one corner of the love triangle gets pressganged. His romantic rival witnesses this and doesn't say anything to their mutual love interest. Here's the thing though: This entire story revolves around Charley NOT ONCE sending word. Like, 18 months pass between Charley being pressganged and Sylvia marrying Philip. And then another 18 months pass between their wedding and Charley miraculously returning from the "dead". THREE STINKING YEARS. Admittedly, he's meant to have been in a French prison for part of that. But DUDE. WRITE A FUCKING LETTER. Don't just reappear after three years away and expect a sixteen year old girl to have waited THREE FREAKING YEARS for you without having heard a single word. I mean, clearly the whole point is to set Philip up as the villain. But it's hard to see Charley as the romantic hero of the piece when he's so clearly a bit of a dick. Essentially, I could turn this into a stereotypical YA book in which a teenage girl falls for a mysterious bad boy while ignoring the sweet, adorable boy next door. She and the sweet, adorable boy next door end up together, but she never stops pining for the mysterious bad boy. Look, despite all of that, I actually did enjoy this one. The language took me a little while to get my head around - lots of Northern style speech, but also a lot of "thou"s and "thine"s because some of the characters are Quakers. There was a lot less in it about whaling than I anticipated, which was a pleasant surprise, and though the ending was abrupt, it did actually manage to give me feels. So. There's that. Essentially, I love Gaskell's storytelling a lot, particularly her ability to tell working class stories within a larger historical narrative. Not her best, but still pretty good.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jane Jordan

    After reading reviews was a bit unsure about this book as I had enjoyed all the other Elizabeth Gaskell books I had read but was thrilled to find it just as good if not better. There was quite a slow start with a lengthy description of the Press Gang but I did find that interesting. The rest of the book moved along at a good pace with many twists and turns and I had no idea how it was going to end consequently I couldn't put it down. After reading reviews was a bit unsure about this book as I had enjoyed all the other Elizabeth Gaskell books I had read but was thrilled to find it just as good if not better. There was quite a slow start with a lengthy description of the Press Gang but I did find that interesting. The rest of the book moved along at a good pace with many twists and turns and I had no idea how it was going to end consequently I couldn't put it down.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    This is one of my favorite books. Everything by Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite books, and this is one of my favorite books by Elizabeth Gaskell. It has all you can ask. Passion, humor, adventure, and intellegence. The story is riveting, the characterization is brilliant, the development of the various characters is very believable. By the end of the book, you know these people.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kate Howe

    This is my fourth Elizabeth Gaskell and one again I'm struck by Gaskell's ability to write such compelling and lyrical novels. This was definitely the most heartbreaking of her novels that I've read yet but her writing is so amazing that it didn't deter my enjoyment of it. Sylvia is a character I will definitely be thinking about in the following months. This is my fourth Elizabeth Gaskell and one again I'm struck by Gaskell's ability to write such compelling and lyrical novels. This was definitely the most heartbreaking of her novels that I've read yet but her writing is so amazing that it didn't deter my enjoyment of it. Sylvia is a character I will definitely be thinking about in the following months.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    Off to a (very) slow start & for a while, I struggled quite a bit with the dialect which is used in almost all dialogues throughout the book, but in he end it was worth it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ann-Marie "Cookie M."

    Well worth reading for lover's of Victorian English writers and Elizabeth Gaskell in particular, "Sylvia's Lovers" is not up to the quality of "North and South." It is pretty much a weeper. Bad things happen to good but thoughtless people, the usual cautionary tale. It makes pithy, pointed remarks about the British system of the press gang and how it ruined the lives of entire rural communities. Well worth reading for lover's of Victorian English writers and Elizabeth Gaskell in particular, "Sylvia's Lovers" is not up to the quality of "North and South." It is pretty much a weeper. Bad things happen to good but thoughtless people, the usual cautionary tale. It makes pithy, pointed remarks about the British system of the press gang and how it ruined the lives of entire rural communities.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072htqt Description: 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.Whitby). The Press Gangs were always lurking when the whale boats were returning from Greenland with their cargo. They intercepted the boats, seized the men and pressed them int http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072htqt Description: 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.Whitby). The Press Gangs were always lurking when the whale boats were returning from Greenland with their cargo. They intercepted the boats, seized the men and pressed them into service with the Royal Navy to fight the French. 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.Whitby). The Press Gangs were always lurking when the whale boats were returning from Greenland with their cargo. They intercepted the boats, seized the men and pressed them into service with the Royal Navy to fight the French. Episode 2/2: Sylvia marries Philip, believing Charlie to be dead. But chaos descends when Charlie returns, and Sylvia discovers Philip has lied to her. Set in Yorkshire in the 1790's - the time of the Napoleonic wars, in Monkshaven (ie.Whitby), during the time of the Press Gangs, who intercepted the fishing boats, seized the men and pressed them into service with the Royal Navy to fight the French. Elizabeth Gaskell ...... Barbara Flynn Sylvia ...... Jodie Comer Philip ...... Graeme Hawley Charlie Kinraid ...... Chris Connel Bell ...... Siobhan Finneran Daniel ..... Paul CopleySylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell Dramatised by Ellen Dryden Victorian era Gaskill writes Napoleonic era whaling.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Once again, Gaskell gives me more than I bargained for. Our heroine, Sylvia, unfortunately quite stupid, falls in love with a rather Phoebuslike sailor and rejects her sensible moony cousin; since this is happening right at the end of the eighteenth century, her life is bound up with troubles over impressment. Gaskell is, as usual, at her best with characters who resemble her, so that Sylvia is much too typical a Victorian heroine but smart, tragic Hester (in love with the sensible cousin), and Once again, Gaskell gives me more than I bargained for. Our heroine, Sylvia, unfortunately quite stupid, falls in love with a rather Phoebuslike sailor and rejects her sensible moony cousin; since this is happening right at the end of the eighteenth century, her life is bound up with troubles over impressment. Gaskell is, as usual, at her best with characters who resemble her, so that Sylvia is much too typical a Victorian heroine but smart, tragic Hester (in love with the sensible cousin), and her moralizing Quaker mother glow with reality. Once again the characters seem to have something behind them - although Gaskell has taken a middle-ground stance on Impressment (showing the horrors of the practice, the possible necessity of it, the terrible results of rebellion against it when Sylvia's father is hung for inciting a well-deserved riot), and although she seems to be focusing on the fragility of our moral selves and the importance of Forgiveness, what I really noticed was the vision of uneducated rural people (annoyingly childlike if impressively dialected) and the limitations set on women. Sylvia, after no-choice-left marriage to her cousin, is trapped within a luxurious house without sufficient employment. Because she is uneducated, she cannot employ herself when all the menial work is done by servants. When she has a child, she gains a focus, but thus is unable to escape when her true love returns and reveals that the besotted husband lied about the lover's death. Quite a soap opera with all attendant stock moral values, but as always, Gaskell's characters have surprising depth and modernity. They cannot be dismissed as emotionally different from the reader despite being long-ago-and-far-away. There is also an entertaining aside mid-novel about looking back in time and being startled by the lack of knowledge of our forebears, and expecting that in time our descendants will think the same of us (no matter how hard this is to believe).

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mel

    I really enjoyed this book, tragic romance, Napoleonic wars and all set in Whitby! (Though called Monkshaven it was so obviously Whitby every time they walked up the stairs to the church it made me irrationally happy) The books started strongly with the description of the town and the fear of the press gangs. It got a little slow in the first half, but picked up again for the 2nd half. I realised towards the end that this is sort of the opposite story to the tale of adventure you'd expect. Norma I really enjoyed this book, tragic romance, Napoleonic wars and all set in Whitby! (Though called Monkshaven it was so obviously Whitby every time they walked up the stairs to the church it made me irrationally happy) The books started strongly with the description of the town and the fear of the press gangs. It got a little slow in the first half, but picked up again for the 2nd half. I realised towards the end that this is sort of the opposite story to the tale of adventure you'd expect. Normally the hero would be Kinraid and would follow his adventures as a whalers, capture by the press gang and adventures in the navy fighting Napoleon, with only a fond recollection for his love back at home. But instead Mrs. Gaskell told the story from the point of view of those left at home. Definitely not as "action packed" but very emotional. I liked all the characterisation in this, though I did not like all the characters. I thought Philip was almost totally unlikeable, which is why I think I found parts a little slow as they were from his point of view. I just couldn't feel any sympathy for him. I think one of the things that Mrs. Gaskell does best is make even her meanest characters sympathetic in some way, so I can assume that this must have been intentional. He was dull, self-serving and unimaginative. Sylvia I liked, despite her aversion to book learning. I wished more time had been spent on her point of view. I felt sorry for her and liked her willfulness. The minor characters were also great, Hester and Molly (who could have been straight out of Cranford). The dialect dialogue did take a bit of getting used to. But the writing style, particularly the little asides about how things used to be 60-70 years ago and how people were then, were brilliant. Unfortunately now I have read all of Mrs. Gaskell's novels and only have some short stories left to read. But I will definitely be going back at some point and reading this one again.

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