- North and South was voted to be our September Book of the Month!
- I love Victorian Literature – Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins.. all fantastic.
- (I have a confession, for a very long time I thought this book was about the Civil war, silly yes?)
Summary from GoodReads:
North and South is a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, first published in book form in 1855 originally appeared as a twenty-two-part weekly serial from September 1854 through January 1855 in the magazine Household Words, edited by Charles Dickens. The title indicates a major theme of the book: the contrast between the way of life in the industrial north of England and the wealthier south, although it was only under pressure from her publishers that Gaskell changed the title from its original,Margaret Hale.
The book is a social novel that tries to show the industrial North and its conflicts in the mid-19th century as seen by an outsider, a socially sensitive lady from the South. The heroine of the story, Margaret Hale, is the daughter of a Nonconformist minister who moves to the fictional industrial town of Milton after leaving the Church of England. The town is modeled after Manchester, where Gaskell lived as the wife of a Unitarian minister. Gaskell herself worked among the poor and knew at first hand the misery of the industrial areas.
So as noted above, yes – for a long time when I saw the title of this book I thought it was about the Civil War. And I thought it would be too sad to read – so laugh at me now, get it all out of your system.
My friend, Hannah, mentioned Elizabeth Gaskell as a writer who portrayed her strong women to be beautiful. Coming on the heels of a Wilkie Collins read, this was refreshing. Collins described his strong women as ugly (even going so far to describe the hair on their faces), but Gaskell’s Margaret in North and South is beautiful, haughty, elegant and everything you could wish for.
When I was reading others opinions on this book I kept noticing a comparison to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and further.. a comparison of Mr. Thornton to Mr. Darcy. They couldn’t be more different, in my opinion. While both have an incredibly strong bond to their family, I actually saw more of a resemblance between Margaret and Mr. Darcy. Margaret had that same turn up of her nose, the same pride that Darcy struggled with through Pride and Prejudice. Although, of course, she was sillier than a man would have been, still – they were very, very alike.
I enjoyed reading the story, I’ll admit. There was quite a bit of drama happening over the littlest things, but mostly I enjoyed the look at the workers unions and the way of business at the time. In Austen’s books we only get a picture of the drawing rooms and the gossip, but Elizabeth Gaskell takes us out of the drawing rooms and into the politics and the poverty. It was that aspect of the book I enjoyed the most.
I’m sure I’ll recommend North and South to friends in the future. It doesn’t quite rank up there with some of my other favorites, but it was enjoyable enough. However, it is not good fodder for discussion unless you really want to dive into the politics. I wouldn’t recommend it for a book club reading.
Check out these review(s):