Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Elizabeth Gaskell - North and South

′But the cloud never comes in that quarter of the horizon from which we watch for it.′
When Margaret Hale is uprooted from Hampshire and moves to the industrial town of Milton in the North of England, her whole world changes. As her sympathy for the town′s mill workers grows, her sense of social injustice piques and she passionately fights their corner. However, just as she disputes the mill owner, John Thornton′s treatment of his workers, she cannot deny her growing attraction to him. Highlighting the changing landscape of nineteenth-century Britain and championing the role of women in Victorian society, Gaskell brilliantly captures the lives of ordinary people through one of her strongest female characters in literature.

Comment: The reason I decided to read this book came from a conversation I had with a friend, she's as much a book lover as I am. So, back in the end of April we've talked about reading this book in June together but she had some stuff to work out because of her RL and couldn't manage the time and well..the book is quite big, so I went ahead and read it alone because I already had put it in my June plans...(I make monthly lists of what I'm planing to read).
I'm not usually overwhelmed by books with many pages but this fact added to the language and the story itself made me take a whole week to read the book. I've started it in a Tuesday and ended it in the Wednesday the following week. A lot of time for me because I'm a rather faster reader I think, even with work. The story was very slow and it had obviously many details and sometimes I didn't feel focused enough to keep reading. Some pages were hard to get over with, I admit. I justify this with the book itself because I've read other classics and they didn't take as long or weren't as hard to read, so this is the only practical reason I can find to explain my slowness.

The story is about Margaret and her family, they live in the south of England where her father is the minister but he starts getting religious doubts and feels he has to abdicate and go somewhere else, some place different so he can "earn" his punishment for not respecting his Church. So, they go north, to an industrial city, where people have different goals and attitudes and way of life. There, they find a house with the help of Mr. Thornton who is also going to be Margaret's father pupil, as her father will become a teacher, kind of. Margaret and Mr Thornton have very different and opposite ideas about everything and they dislike each other from the start. But, obviously, things around them just make them deal with each other and it's pretty obvious they will end up together, somehow.

There were some parts in the story I enjoyed and other where I felt like the plot was just dragging. I guess part of why this happened is simply the writing style, very apropos to the time it was written, but this also meant sometimes I felt a bit bored and would not pay as much attention to what I was reading. I thought the story was interesting but it could be as good without so many pages.
The two main characters were intriguing, Mr Thornton more so than Margaret simply because she annoyed me a lot of times. She was very stubborn and not always tender and there were moments where I felt she could be more sympathetic and not as rigid. She defended her points of view and I liked that specially considering the time she was living in but I think if she were to be a bit more romantic, then she could be more likable. Mr Thornton was an interesting lead character and I liked him and his posture although I didn't agree with some things he defended. I think he and Margaret made a very interesting couple and I liked how the story ended for them.
The remaining cast was interesting but I admit not as much as the two main characters, mainly because of the language. Many characters talked like northerns, without educated language and I had some trouble "deciphering" the slang used. Apart from this, I liked how the story played, although ideally, like I said, it could be smaller and less boring at times.
The plot has interesting things and I felt emotional at certain moments due to things that were happening and I think the author knew how to play that too.

I still think it was important for me to have read it, classics are classics for some reason, but to be really honest this wasn't a favorite. I'm curious, though, to watch the BBC series made based on it. I want to see how different - or not - it is from the book.


  1. I loved, loved, loved this book. I loved the introspection bits. I read it after watching the series which I loved, loved, loved too but in a different way :-)

    As a side note, ypou make monthly reading lists? Sounds interesting, maybe I should do that too.

  2. The book is certainly intriguing. I felt so sorry for Margaret when she ended up alone, poor girl. But she really annoyed me at times, although I related to her personality..what can I say, being it and reading about it are two different things lol

    Yes, I make monthly lists, in the "books of the month" page I have all the books I read by month but before I do, I write down what I want to read..I have lists until december, some more full than others..most books are part of things I want to get over with, but there's always new things and the books from auto buy authors that get released and sometimes I can't read everything I've set myself for. The thing is, I have too many books and not enough time to read them.. if I didn't make lists and "forced" myself to read them, some of those books would just stay behind forever..I already have so many in this situation.. and I try to mix up genres a lot, so I won't get bored with the same things.