Round the Sofa is a collection of short stories by Elizabeth Gaskell, the lady nicknamed Scheherazade for her storytelling talent by none other than Charles Dickens.
Round the Sofa makes an excellent and very quick read. The collection comes with a string of short stories told in turn by the different characters introduced in the first piece of the volume. The narrator of the stories is Miss Greatorex. She joins a circle of friends who gather every week in the mansion owned by Mrs. Drawson, a sick lady, to entertain each other with stories told round the sofa. The topics vary from discussing the difficulties to accept change (in the story entitled My Lady Ludlow), through describing the harsh life of a minority in the West of France called the Cagots (in the essay-like story with the title An Accursed Race), to stories featuring gothic elements such as ancient Welsh curses (The Doom of the Griffiths) and tales about brotherly love (The Half-Brothers).
Romance and witchcraft also find their way into the collection - The Poor Clare tells the story of a woman supposed to be a witch, while Half a Life-Time Ago is about a young woman from Wiltshire Dales who sacrifices her chance to romantic happiness for the sake of her family.
Published in 1859, when Gaskell was already an established and popular author, the collection includes several stories previously published by Gaskell, but also stories that were written for the collection. The values that govern these stories are the same as the values informing her other works - tolerance in all aspects of life and a kind of loving and understanding attitude towards others. The style of the story is typical Gaskell as well - fresh and lively, often using vernacular, with lots of subtle humor, making up tales in the best Victorian novelistic tradition.
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