Monday, February 27, 2012

Review: North and South

Author: Elizabeth Gaskell
Publish date: 1855
Source: Library
"When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell skillfully fuses individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale creates one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature."

Toward the end of last year, I decided to take part in the Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Sarah at Sarah Reads Too Much. I read North and South as my 19th century classic and read it first because I bought a copy in 2010 but never picked it up. I liked it for the most part, although it did drag in some areas, as do most books. I think I'd love it as a reread later this year or next year.

I haven't read a classic in a few years, so it took me a little while to get used to needing to read slower since Gaskell's writing style is different from what I normally read. Not a problem, though, as I really liked the story. The main character, Margaret Hale, is eighteen years old at the beginning and lives with her parents, who soon move to Milton, an industrial town, and not exactly what Margaret is used to. It was interesting to read about her getting used to her new living situation and meet people from town, who are all very different from her old neighbors.

I liked that North and South wasn't just a love story. A good chunk of the novel was about the employer vs employee relationship, striking, work conditions, etc. I found it all pretty interesting, especially anything with Mr. Thornton (of course). Everything was going pretty smoothly, taking me a while to read, but that was fine...then everyone started dying. Way too much death and I definitely wasn't expecting it. I really was pretty sad and think that's part of the reason it took me so long to read it. WHY IS EVERYONE DYING???

Anyway, despite all the sadness, I did enjoy the book. I liked Margaret, Mr. Hale, and Mr. Thornton a lot, and think that Margaret is in the running for one of my favorite female characters from classic literature. Reading a classic again is also getting me in the mood for a Jane Austen book. I plan on reading Persuasion for the romance category of the challenge soon!

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