North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell

 

north-and-south

 

I have been contemplating starting this blog for a long time, finally I have found the time, and the confidence, to start.

I always knew the first post would be the most awkward to write. To make it even more daunting, I recently undertook a placement at Vintage Books (part of Penguin Random House) in the publicity department. One of my tasks was to compile a list of bloggers and vloggers, so I spent the best part of a few days looking through Book Blogs and Youtube channels. There are so many amazing blogs I don’t know how I am going to come close!

So, that being said, I’ll skip introductions and get straight to the book stuff.

I have been, albeit very slowly, making my way through the Penguin English Library collection. Embarrassingly, as an English student, I haven’t read nearly enough of the classics. I thought this collection, mainly because of the beautifully designed covers, would be a great place to start.

Penguin English Library

 

So far I have bought and read:

  • Middlemarch by George Eliot
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I know I can hardly call this a collection, but I am working on it! I plan to review each and every book, but today I will start with North and South. 

Earlier this year I took a module called Victorian Fictions, about, you guessed it, Victorian fiction! It was amazing. I have struggled reading Victorian literature in the past. I found the writing style difficult to get to grips with, and I often found it quite boring. This module however, completely changed that. It really opened my eyes and made me really appreciate Victorian novels.

North and South was published weekly between 1854 – 1855 in Charles Dickens’ Household Words.

Synopsis

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. (Taken from GoodReads).

Review

If I had to describe North and South in one word it would be lovely. It really was, I loved the book from start to finish.

Margaret Hale is a beautifully complicated character, who defies the normal Victorian gender expectations. I don’t want to add any spoilers, because if you haven’t read this book, you need to do so immediately, and I don’t want to add anything that will lessen the wonderful effect this book has. So I will just say that Margaret takes on responsibilities  that would usually be down to the the man of the house, and she does so with a strong and independent manner, that makes you love her even more. Margaret is outspoken and heartfelt in everything she does. Her friendship with Bessy Higgins and her father Mr Higgins is an emotional journey. Margaret’s kindness towards them is beautiful and it shuns the rich/poor divide of Victorian England. As you have probably noticed I love Margaret’s character, I don’t think I can stress this enough!

Factory owner John Thornton is equally high in my estimations. At first you may think differently about him, but persevere and you will learn that he is as compassionate and loving as Margaret. As with his mother Mrs Thornton, she comes across mean and rude, but everything she does is for her family. John would not be the man he is without his mother.

The story provides an interesting insight into the North/South divide in the Victorian Era, and an equally interesting insight into the industrial revolution.

I couldn’t possibly rate this book, there is not enough stars or high numbers that could express my feelings for this book. One of my all time favourites.

 

 

 

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