Molly Gibson is a small-town girl in England during the 1830s, kind-hearted but unwise in the ways of the world. Her widower father sends her to stay with the aristocrats of Hamley Hall, where she befriends both of the family's sons, learning the elder's dark secret while falling in love with the younger. But her father has remarried in her absence, and in addition to a selfish and ambitious stepmother, Molly has acquired a stepsister who quickly becomes a rival for the younger Hamley's affections. Molly's strikingly realistic coming-of-age story, recounted with humor and pathos, depicts the consequences of both good and bad marriages as well as the dynamics of changing relationships within family. Elizabeth Gaskell develops timeless themes of friendship, love, money, and tragedy amid a portrait of a rapidly changing Victorian world. Her richly drawn characters and their preoccupation with social behavior and moral issues provide thought-provoking entertainment in the manner of Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, and George Eliot.