Round the Sofa is not really a story. It is a vehicle to contain short stories. The narrator is invited to the home of a sickly invalid for weekly gatherings where each person in the circle takes turns telling a story.
The first short story is "My Lady Ludlow" which I'd already read, but listening to it here gives context to who the narrator is and helps to give context to the story.
The next story is "An Accursed Race" which is really and academic history of a persecuted people called the Cagots. I have no idea who these people are and still don't after reading this story except that they lived in Europe and were ill treated in similar ways to Jews or other minorities.
The third story is "The Doom of the Griffiths". A curse follows that Griffiths family in which the son of the 8th generation is supposed to kill his father. The way in which the curse is realized is well told.
The fourth story is "Half a Life-Time Ago" is the story of Susan who in her youth has a chance for love, but must give it up to care for her family. She ends up old and lonely, but has amassed riches which ultimately bless others.
The fifth story is "The Poor Clare" which tells the story of a supposed witch. The narrator discovers her history and the origin of a curse she places. The story explores how bitterness can canker our soul, but forgiveness can liberate.
The final story is "The Half-Brothers" tells of two brothers - one who is loved and spoiled and the other who is misunderstood and poorly treated. It tells of an act of selfless love.
Overall, I enjoyed the stories. Some are better than others, but Gaskell proves that she is incredible at writing characters who are believable and situations that tug at one's emotions
Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, (née Stevenson, 29 September 1810 - 12 November 1865), often referred to as Mrs Gaskell, was an English novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. Her novels offer a detailed portrait of the lives of many strata of society, including the very poor, and are of interest to social historians as well as lovers of literature. Her first novel, Mary Barton, was published in 1848. Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Brontë, published in 1857, was the first biography about Brontë. Some of Gaskell's best known novels are Cranford (1851-53), North and South (1854-55), and Wives and Daughters (1865).Gaskell was born Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson on 29 September 1810 at 93 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. She was the youngest of eight children; only she and her brother John survived infancy. Her father, William Stevenson, was a Scottish Unitarian minister at Failsworth, Lancashire, but resigned his orders on conscientious grounds and moved to London in 1806 with the intention of going to India after he was appointed private secretary to the Earl of Lauderdale, who was to become Governor General of India. That position did not materialise, however, and instead Stevenson was nominated Keeper of the Treasury Records. His wife, Elizabeth Holland, came from a family from the English Midlands that was connected with other prominent Unitarian families, including the Wedgwoods, the Martineaus, the Turners and the Darwins. When she died 13 months after giving birth to her youngest daughter, she left a bewildered husband who saw no alternative for Elizabeth but to be sent to live with her mother's sister, Hannah Lumb, in Knutsford, Cheshire...
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About the Author
Tremendously popular in her lifetime, the books of the English author Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) have often been overshadowed by her contemporaries the Brontës and George Eliot. Yet the reputation of her long-neglected masterpiece Wives and Daughters continues to grow. Gaskell wrote six novels in all — of which North and South and Cranford remain two of the best known — as well as numerous short stories, novellas, and a biography of her great friend Charlotte Brontё.