North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell
Title: North and South
Author: Elizabeth Gaskell
Publisher: Penguin Popular Classics
Copyright: 1994 (1854)
I’ve heard people compare this book to Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I’ve heard people say that they like it BETTER than P&P! Blasphemy. And, I, have to say, I disagree. Pride and Prejudice is better. But North and South is definitely up there. I read it in order to host a stop on Gaskell’s tour for the Classics Circuit and for my book club.
Margaret Hale and her family have left their comfortable home in the South and moved to a manufacturing town in the North. In Milton, Margaret meets factory owner John Thornton, who will challenge her ideas of what a gentleman really is. She must also confront the differences between the gentle south and the industrial north.
The themes here are very similar to those explored in Pride and Prejudice. Can two people overcome their initial reactions, based on prejudice and pride, and find true love? Add to that the social issues of the wealthy versus the poor and unions versus factory owners and you have yourself an interesting novel. (And the BBC miniseries isn’t bad either.) My only two complaints are interrelated. The plot really dragged for me in the first couple hundred pages. And I think this is in part because of the way it is written. The paragraphs tend to be long and complicated with dialog sprinkled throughout. And there is a lot of set up. Still, once I reached the middle third of the book, I couldn’t put it down. Just be prepared for a rather abrupt ending.
This is a lovely love story, with more heartache and critical situations than any Austen fare. Gaskell really lets you see the gritty smog of industrialization and the havoc it wreaks on the social climate. North and South is a chunkster and a challenge but very worthwhile.
North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell [rating:4]