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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review - Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South

I am ashamed that I did not know of Elizabeth Gaskell's writings till fairly recently. I was fortunate to pick up this book a while ago.

Margaret Hale's father who is a Vicar has a personal crisis of his faith and removes his family from the idyllic village of Heston to smoky, industrial fumes soaked Milton. Here Mrs Hale who never took to the move sickens and dies.

In Milton Mr. Hale takes in students and one of them is a mill owner the enigmatic, different Mr. Thornton. Margaret finds it difficult to reconcile herself to manufacture and trade and thinks for a long time that these people are below her dignity and she should not associate with them very much. At the same time Mr. Thornton falls in love with Margaret and after a strike of workers where Margaret protects him, he declares himself but is spurned.

Margaret takes on domestic duties after her mother's death particularly realising the financial depths they have come down to. Despite this, she maintains her gentrified ways, spurning the harsh ways of the industrial town she is now living in. Prejudices exist on all sides - the North more blunt and cards on the table than the smoother South and this forms the crux of the story.
Thornton however is not going to let go easily - he is not one who is going to step aside and let some other man take Margaret from him. "Faint heart never won fair lady" could be tailor made for him. In a very subtle way he ensures that he knows what is happening in Margaret's life, particularly after the sudden death of her father which means that she moves away to Harley Street and away from him. Despite the obvious antagonism of his mother, Mr. Thornton strives to win Margaret's affection and her hand.

Likened to Pride and Prejudice it is darker than that with no light relief at all in the form of a Mr. Collins. Here death is everywhere and this gives a heavy note to the book. There is poverty in its harshest form as well. It all ends well though for the lovers and this was the lighter part of the book which I enjoyed. The descriptiveness of both village as well as industrial Milton was also very much part of the story.

A very interesting read.


Anonymous said...

I have never read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell, but I might have to give it a try!

Somer @ A Bird's Eye Review

Amused said...

This is one of those books that I've heard about but never really looked into. Sounds pretty heavy but well worth the read!

Micki said...

I have read it and it is a wonderful book.
Thanks for a great review!

Blodeuedd said...

Not read it either, but love love LOVE the BBC series. That is gold

Darlene said...

I haven't read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell either but I have wondered about this book more than once. I think I'll have to pick it up. I'd really like to read it.

Anonymous said...

I only read this after watching the TV adaptation which is amazing. I think most of England fell in love with Mr. Thornton! Although it was slightly different from the book, I really enjoyed reading it and was surprised at the depth of detail and social conscience with which Gaskell wrote.

Lady Q said...

I've seen so many people rave about this but I never knew what it was all about. Thanks for the review--I'm adding it to my TBR list!

Cheryl said...

That does sound very interesting, but kind of sad too.

mary said...

Have you come across Cousin Phillis, Mystica? It's a lovely, and very short novella by Mrs Gaskell, very sad - but a much lighter read (in every sense) than North and South. It seems to get overlooked, yet everyone who reads it seems to love it.

bermudaonion said...

From the title I thought this was set in the US, but from your description, I can tell it's not. The book sounds fascinating!

Kathy said...

Nice review! Looks like it is worth a read.

MarthaE said...

This sounds intense. Thanks for the review.

Lisa R/alterlisa said...

Great review. Sounds like something I might like.


alterlisa AT yahoo DOT com

T Jones said...

I have never read anything by Elizabeth Gaskell, but it will be added to my TBR list. Thanks so much for sharing your review.

I am visiting from the Book Review Wednesday hop.

Sharon said...

Great review, it sounds like one I would like to read.

Elizabeth said...

..Stopping by from Cym Lowell's Book Party.

Stop by my blog for a book giveaway:


Chelsey Emmelhainz of HARPER COLLINS is graciously providing FIVE copies for five lucky winners.

Lisa said...

I've been thinking of listening to this one next on Librivox when I finish Villette. Sounds like I'll enjoy it.