There are detailed biographies, and there are detailed biographies, and then there is Jenny Uglow's biography Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories.
I really love Elizabeth Gaskell. (And reading her books too--not just watching the BBC versions of North and South and Cranford, although that's how my interest was piqued.) And a friend of mine is a very big fan of Jenny Uglow's writing. So I thought this would be a very happy marriage of interesting subject and recommended writer.
But I just can't do it. I made it all the way to page 27, and I have to admit that I am not going to get any further (for now) and take it back to the library. In all fairness, twenty-seven pages of this biography are equal to at least fifty pages in a less strenuously researched one. Consider:
"The whole 'Holland clan,' as their friends called them, played a part in Elizabeth's early years. Her uncle Peter Holland, an irascible, humorous man, who limped from a leg injured in a fall from a gig, was the local doctor. He lived in Church House at the other end of town and when Elizabeth was small, she travelled in his dog-cart on his rounds in the country practice--much as George Eliot, nine years younger, was to travel with her land-agent father. His practice flourished, and his apprentices (like those of Mr. Gibson in Wives and Daughters) lodged in Church House with his large family. His first wife, Mary Willetts, who died in 1803, was a niece of Josiah Wedgwood, and Peter, linked to the wider Unitarian network, was an influential figure, more involved with political and mercantile life than the term 'local doctor' implies." (p. 16.)
There is a lot going on in that paragraph. I can find no faults with Uglow's research or writing--both are very skillfully done--but I simply do not have the time right now to finish a biography in which every page is that dense, and there are more than 600 said pages. So, like I said: someday, when I am retired, and have the weeks and months to give this book that it deserves, I'll be back for it.