North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – Review

 Spoiler Free

As a reader picking a classic to read is hard, they feel and read differently from modern novels and if you’re not used to reading them or have just read something contemporary a classic can be a lot to jump into.

north and south review

I have a had a few classics on my TBR for a while, but North and South has always been one my eye as been drawn to again and again. The idea of a young woman pulled away from her home in the South of England and moving across the country against her will to northern England in the mist of the Industrial Revolution was an appealing concept.

North and South follows Margaret Hale, a strong-willed young woman who hasn’t lived amongst high society but is has hardly struggled either- her father is a parson and she has grown up amongst the luscious but slow English Country side with her cousin Edith and friend Henry.

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When Margaret’s father gives up his parsonage following a crisis of faith he moves his whole family to Milton- a city many believed to be based on the real life Manchester. Milton is not like Helston where Margret has grown up it is not green or slow but a busy vibrant city filled with smoke and industry but also there are many poor people. This is something which Margret has been sheltered from in her former life. The people and culture are so different and Margret is referred to as a foreigner more than once, these are two separate worlds that lie next to each other within the same country.

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Margret’s father begins teaching a much lower paid job than his former profession reducing their circumstances considerably but this is how she meets Mr. Thornton her father’s first pupil. Mr. Thornton is a master at a prosperous cotton mill and he and Margret see the world very differently, particularly this new world that she is inhabiting and its people. I don’t think I can continue without spoiling the book all I can say is go and read it now.

Spoilers

I have read a lot of Jane Austen so I suppose with North and South that’s what I thought I was getting a simple love story but North and South is so much more than that. It takes a strong young woman and places her in a world amongst people she doesn’t understand and watches how she negotiates them which I find fascinating. Margret isn’t the kind of character who is interested in making social connections she someone who is interested and passionate about social justice. She can see the awful situation the poor are in and their choices are so limited strike or die, die or strike and that’s why in my favourite scene in the book when the strikers come to Thornton’s mill she begs Mr. Thornton to talk to them, reason with them even through their actions are driven by starvation and desperation. She has hope that all men can just be spoken to and no matter how bad things get they can be resolved.

Best Bits 

Other than Margaret who I’m obviously quite a fan of particularly from a feminist perspective, Mr Thorton is such a well-written character. Thornton is a brilliant business man and a man of incredible morality, and most of all he loves Margaret, amongst all the political angst in this book it was a really great love story to watch unfurl.

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Thornton is a brilliant businessman and a man of incredible morality, and most of all he loves Margaret, amongst all the political angst in this book it was a really great love story to watch unfurl.

Overall I would give this 5/5 stars and it has to be one of my all-time favourite classics, I look forward to reviewing the tv adaptation (which can be found on Netflix) very soon.

I hope you enjoyed my North and South review I’ll see you next time, goodbye!

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