Cousin Phillis and Other Tales
by Elizabeth Gaskell
4 out of 5 stars
I have such mixed feelings about this book. It’s a collection of short stories, and every single one is depressing! These are the saddest, most awful stories I have ever read. The real problem is that the writing is so brilliant that it really makes you care about the characters! So when everything goes wrong, it is absolutely heartbreaking.
Also most of the stories finish with a lot of unresolved questions. They end abruptly with someone’s death, and we aren’t told if the surviving characters go on to get married or live happy lives or buy back the farm or anything. Loose ends dangling everywhere! Agh! Very frustrating.
I couldn’t finish reading them, because I was getting too depressed.
Update 2021: I finished reading the last two stories in this collection “Curious if True” and “Cousin Phillis”. These stories were a bit happier and more structured, and I enjoyed them!
“Curious if True” is about a benighted traveler who stumbles into a French chalet and is greeted as if he were an expected guest. He gradually begins to realize that the hosts are somehow familiar to him.
“Cousin Phillis” is about a young man who works for a railroad, and he meets his distant cousins and their daughter Phillis, who is a couple of years younger than himself. He becomes close with the whole family, visiting them at their farm, and even bringing his railroad boss to meet them.
This story is more of a novella, and has a well-constructed story line with deep characters. I really loved the family dynamic between all the cousins, and how their peaceful farm life is described with so much charm. I was completely fascinated with the characters and their strong personalities. I was also pleased that this story has a somewhat happy ending, despite there being some tragedy in the middle.
As always, Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing style is a complete delight!