Monday, February 22, 2010

Review: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

North and South
By Elizabeth Gaskell
450 pages
published: 1854
5 of 5 stars

And here I confess some of my terrible ignorance of many things "classic" when I say that I had never heard of Elizabeth Gaskell before my book club proffered this to read, and I was worried that it would be about the civil war. (I do not dislike books on the civil war as long as they are about the war, and not politics. I don't like politics.) But Oh Happy Day! it is about England and the industrial revolution and has a wonderful Jane Austen taste. Yummy!

Margaret is South here and Mr. Thornton North as industry clashes with the "sophisticated" gentlemen and ladies. Old money versus new money. Hard work versus no work. My prejudices are coming out - dang! But all you out there that like your cheap clothes, grocery stores, electricity, and your general standard of living needs to thank the industrial revolution. Was it pretty? Absolutely not. Ugly. Sad. But needful. And that is the start of why this book is so good.

Many thought the beginning was slow. I was even told that around page 200 it started moving. I must respectfully disagree. I loved it from the beginning. I loved Margaret and her quandaries. I loved the setting. I loved the background of her life and relationships. By the time I got to page 200, I couldn't put the book down.

Margaret and Mr. Thornton reminded me of Elizabeth and Darcy, only more stubborn and prejudiced. It was highly entertaining! She was quietly saucy and he was gently over-bearing. How is that even possible? Loved it! It was great watching Margaret's opinions change and Mr. Thornton flirting with humility.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters and how they contributed to the main characters' development. Margaret's parents were a constant stress that Margaret held up under, and Mr. Thornton had a vaguely disturbing relationship with his mother. Fascinating. I loved Mr. Bell and his wit. I loved Betsy and her father and their earthy practicality.

I enjoyed the window into that chapter of history as well. I have studied the American industrial revolution, but not the British version. And call me morbid, but it was refreshing how much death was a part of the story. It was touching, raw, and real.

I am amazed and want very much to read more by Elizabeth Gaskell.


  1. Oh my gosh, you just saved me a load of embarrassment! I, too, thought this book was about the Civil War. In fact, I thought it was the impetus to the mini series North & South that starred Patrick Swayze (?).

    But it's not?


    LOL. Oops. My bad :P

  2. I LOVED this one. The romance, oh it was so lovely :) You will probably like Wives and Daughters (by Gaskell) as well. Very sweet.

  3. @ Christina - It IS very confusing if you aren't familiar with the title! You should try it!

    @ Melissa - I have heard great things about that one...and awful things because it doesn't have an end! I can't make up my mind...