North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Published by MobileReference (mobi)

 
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North and South is a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, first published in book form in 1855 originally appeared as a twenty-two-part weekly serial from September 1854 through January 1855 in the magazine Household Words, edited by Charles Dickens. The title indicates a major theme of the book: the contrast between the way of life in the industrial north of England and the wealthier south, although it was only under pressure from her publishers that Gaskell changed the title from its original, Margaret Hale.

The book is a social novel that tries to show the industrial North and its conflicts in the mid-19th century as seen by an outsider, a socially sensitive lady from the South. The heroine of the story, Margaret Hale, is the daughter of a Nonconformist minister who moves to the fictional industrial town of Milton after leaving the Church of England. The town is modeled after Manchester, where Gaskell lived as the wife of a Unitarian minister. Gaskell herself worked among the poor and knew at first hand the misery of the industrial areas.

-- Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Customer Reviews:

  • Amazing!
    I just loved this book! For all the Janeites (such as me...) it should also be a pleasure to read this book. True, Mrs. Gaskell writes about social and economical changes in the 19th century, however, she doesn't develop this aspect too much. She only writes about the "nice" workers, who don't "drink their salary" and who are being unfairly exploited by the masters. She sticks to the paternalistic view of the 19th century, and she is not revolutionary in a sense that the social conventions will be respected. The story is pretty much about the characters, and less about the environment....more info
  • Gaskell's Victorian novel with modern ideas
    I agree with a lot that is written in the previous reviews here. Yes, there is a very slow start to this novel. I wonder whether that's because it was first serialized by Dickens, and Mrs. Gaskell was paid by the word. And, yes, the ending is rather abrupt, especially preceded by the last few slow chapters. Maybe Dickens lost his patience.

    In so many ways, though, this novel is a treasure. It's not easy to write a political novel with a strong love story and good characterizations. Gaskell takes on quite a bit and mostly succeeds in her task of describing the changes industrialization brought to England. She balances her sympathy for the workers in the factories with the dilemmas posed to the mill owners by new machinery, competition from abroad, and the threats of potential workers' strikes. She contrasts very effectively the excitement of this new way of life against the nostalgia for the agrarian past. These were new concepts in Victorian England, but they are not so foreign today that we cannot readily understand their significance.

    She gives us a sympathetic and spirited heroine in Margaret Hale, who is wise beyond her years. Another colorful character is Nicholas Higgins. I found myself looking forward to his scenes because he provides the humor in an almost-humorless book. (It is funny at the end, though, and I would have liked to have seen more of this tone.)

    Mr. Thornton is a character we can readily identify with--someone who triumphs over adversity and seeks to constantly better himself. Someone with high standards, yet none higher than he holds himself to. Margaret is his match in every way.

    I did see many plot similarities with "Pride and Prejudice" in the love story. We have characters of different class backgrounds who are initially repelled but who come to appreciate each other and are kept apart by misunderstandings and circumstances. The proposal scenes are strikingly familiar, and the first proposal includes almost the same language (re gentlemanlike behavior) that Elizabeth speaks to Darcy. And we have a Lady Catherine DeBourgh character in Mrs. Thornton, who does her best to drive the lovers apart. But I can't fault Mrs. Gaskell for borrowing plotlines from the master. Although Gaskell is a strong writer, she does not quite have Jane Austen's gift for revealing the humanity in her characters with humor and affection. There is not much "fun" and no banter (until the very last lines of the book) in the North and South love story.

    There are many plot contrivances and conveniences, too, which compel us to suspend disbelief. A few too many rapid deaths, a character's coincidental presence at a key scene, another character showing up in an unexpected place, and more. But these limitations serve to drive the story and allow us to focus on the strong moral characters of our central characters and our strong wish for their eventual reconciliation.

    In the Penguin edition, it is also rather disturbing to find the plot given away in the footnotes. I read the footnotes religiously to orient myself, but I don't understand why they have to mention so many plot occurrences (especially big things like deaths and proposals) ahead of time. So, if you don't want to know how things go, read the footnotes (and preface) judiciously.

    OK, I've written a lot of negatives and yet I give the book 4 stars. Despite its flaws, North and South takes on a lot and mainly succeeds. I love its ambition and its great heart. I love that I learned a lot about English history at that particular time. I love that it rewarded me for getting through those first 150 pages with a rich, compelling story. I love that Mrs. Gaskell held my interest to the end. As Victorian novels go, this is surprisingly modern and a worthwhile read....more info

  • North and South (by Elizabeth Gaskell)
    This is one of the best books I've ever read. It should be known that Elizabeth Gaskell was a protege of Charles Dickens. This book is a book written by a woman who was ahead of her times. The heroine is such a heroic and exciting character, while at the same time kind and benevolent. The plot is fast moving and exhilarating. I find this a treasure in English Literature...a must for the serious reader ...and especially women. Unfortunately Miss Gaskell died before she reached the level of fame she so deserved. This book was recommended to me by a professor of English Literary Philosophy at Univ. of So. Cal. What a find!...more info
  • Worth a read
    Margaret Hale's father, a churchman, repudiates his beliefs, and consequently sacrifices his "living" in idyllic, sunny Helstone (is that "Hell" stone? Surely not...) in the South of England. The Hales relocate in Milton, in Darkshire, loosely modelled on Manchester. In the North, they learn the realities of industrial life, the poverty, social injustice, rampant death, etc.

    Politically and socially, the local mill-owner, John Thornton, is Margaret's antagonist. Their initial mutual revulsion evolves eventually, through mutual sympathy, into love. Add in Margaret's brother, Frederick, living abroad under a cloud for mutiny, and you have the ingredients of a good story.

    But the first 200 pages are, as another reviewer has remarked, tedious beyond belief. However, the last 250 or so pages fly by. Gaskell plots the story well. The many deaths, both lingering and sudden, are harrowing and moving. Ideologically, Gaskell was an armchair socialist, a middle-class wife who could afford to ally herself with the workers. Her style, packed with Victorianisms, is in some ways contemporary and highly idiomatic, and she handles conversation particularly well. There's much Northern dialogue to struggle through.

    You'll struggle to reach the middle of the book, and then you won't be able to put it down. My fave chapter is the one where Margaret, after many reversals, returns to her native town of Helstone. Her nostalgia is tempered by the realisation that life moves on. Even this little jewel of a village is sadly changed. But, as she well knows, c'est la vie!...more info

  • Wonderful...
    It took me while to get into this book, but being a fan of Mrs. Gaskell's other works I stuck with it. Was I ever rewarded! The one word I would use to describe the writing is magical. This is what literature is supposed to be. Not only is North and South an involving tale of the relationship between two people, but also the relationship between two different ways of life and thinking. It is a comentary on a changing nation and its struggles. ...more info
  • A very interesting book... but not this edition
    A Victorian novel about snobbery, with every stock character from the poor curate to the consumptive saint to the working class philosopher to the misunderstood rich man.

    Don't get me wrong: it's a great book though completely foreign to the mores of modern America. Genteel Margaret Hale moves to the godforsaken (so she would have you believe) north of England after her father leaves the church. There, she slowly turns revolutionary, through her friendships with a working class family and with the gruff mill owner.

    I cannot recomend this edition, though: the footnotes give away every plot twist many, many chapters before they happen and without any real reason (actual footnote: "compare this proposal with the one Margaret recieves from [name withheld], and with the one that she ultimately accepts from [name withheld]." Um, great... except that this footnote is in about chapter 4, the second one is halfway through the book, and the third one is on the last page of the book!) The footnotes give away who marries, who dies, and what happens to who long before said events transpire... it really took much of the joy out of reading the novel.

    Still, it's a very interesting book offering an idealized view of the Victorian class divide (I mean come on... the Binglys made their money in industry, and the provenance of Mr. Darcy's wealth is never alluded to but it doesn't seem to come from a title... and 30 years later the poor curate's daughter is shocked just SHOCKED to find that industrial barons can read?). I definately recomend it, but I don't recomend reading the footnotes....more info
  • A Masterpiece!!
    I absolutely loved this book. Once I got to the chapter of the riot, I could not turn the pages fast enough. It is beautifully written, and certainly under-rated. I don't know what some of the other people have read when they give such horrible reviews, but it certainly wasn't this book. It is easily one of my favorites. I also highly recommend "Wives and Daughters," another of Gaskell's masterpieces.
    "North and South" put me in another world. It often made me laugh, and in the end I feel that I truly know the characters that were portrayed.
    READ THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!...more info
  • Possibly 3.5 stars, though not four...
    If we are discussing the novel's ability to entertain, the first 200 or so pages leave something to be desired. I found that portion of the book to be dry, lacking and highly dull. Had it not been a compulsory school text, I would have had no hestations in putting it down and picking a Henry Miller novel. Needless to say, if you are reading 'North and South' purely for the purpose of enjoyment, you will need patience to see you past the book's inital tedious stage.

    This however, does not do justice to the second half, which remarkably captures the attention of the reader. The heroine of the piece suffers setback after setback, and develops into an admirable, becoming and interesting character, not to mention Mr Thornton, who seems to develop some personality over the span of the piece. The class relations, the plight of women and the longing for independence and individuality felt by the characters becomes entertaining where it first provided endless boredom. Even more interesting is the love hate relationship between Miss Hale and Mr Thornton. Due to the fact the piece was not entirely completed, the ending is lacking a certain solidardity and denies the novel the zest it requires to 'bring it home'.

    Despite the fact it came to grow on me, the beginning and the ending have lowered my opinion of the novel immensly, and it does become slightly repetitive. The romantic basis of the novel reminds me slightly of Austen's classic 'Pride and Prejudice'; the opening opposition of the lovers, the favours etc. This piece would have to contain more substance, though is by no means a better novel, despite the fact it explores such themes as classes and poverty, which Austen's piece rarely (if ever) mentions.

    Regardless, eventually interesting enough, though certainly not among my favourites, and definitely not one I would have considered reading had it not be compulsory....more info

  • Not Too Bad...
    Just a quick review! The novel itself wasn't too bad, and Gaskell writes it really well. The characters are convincing, and she puts across the issues of the time really well. Unlike most other books written around the same time, North and South was a much easier read, and more enjoyable. The only thing that wasn't so good was the ending. It was so frustrating! I finished the book and was left wanting to know what happens, or at least a little bit more than what I was left with! Apart from the disappointing ending, North and South was a pretty good read. It was definitely one of the better books that the english department have given us to read over the holidays! :)...more info
  • Just an Average Read
    After reading this book and another by the same writer ("Mary Barton"), it becomes clear to me why the works of Elizabeth Gaskell are not as highly acclaimed as those by other writers of her time e.g. Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens or even Jane Austen. Mrs Gaskell wrote eloquently, her storylines are interesting and her heroines/heroes are likeable and believable BUT despite all these, you end up concluding that her writing is only of average quality.

    "North and South" the novel started out nicely and interestingly enough. Halfway into the novel, I did fell in love with the story as I look forward to a romantic reconciliation between the penniless heroine, Margaret Hale and the rich mill owner, John Thornton. However, Mrs Gaskell made quite a mess of the ending. The last few chapters were boring and hurriedly written. Some of the most tedious chapters cover the character of a factory worker and Union member, Nicholas Higgins, and his ill, bed-ridden but truly annoying daughter, Bessy who both keep droning on and on about their poverty, struggles and ailments.

    In short, the ending is unsatisfactory and truly an anti-climax for the reader, after so much anticipation, as the beginning and earlier chapters of the novel are quite good.

    Lastly, I will comment that comparatively, I found "North and South" more enjoyable than "Mary Barton" although the latter has a better-written (i.e. "neater") ending....more info
  • An excelent book to any person
    You have to get familiar with the characters and then you slowly star to love them all.
    At the beggining I felt sorry to poor Mr Lennox,he was a Miss Hale's friend but he took her love for granted and he was rejected by her.
    Miss Hale is a nineteen years old girl who has always lived in a confortable way with her parents but some day Mr Hale finds that his faith has change and he can not continue in the church with such doubts and they decided to move to the north of England.
    Mrs Hale gets sick because the air and the rhythm or life in such a place is very hard to face however the family find a house where to live and a new way to start all over. They meet Mr John Thornton a mill's owner who wants to become a more educated person learning some literature now that Mr Hale has become a tutor in his new hometown.
    The prejudices Miss Hale shows for him at the beggining and the tough way of Mr Thornton made them fell uneasy every time they meet however this are the very things that make them get closer and realize that north and south can not be so different after all and that the things one place lacks can be fulfill by the other place.
    It is a masterpiece.I was so glad I bought this incredible good book.
    I red it and just want to read it again....more info
  • Improves as it goes
    For much of the first half of the book, I REALLY was irritated with Margaret Hale- she is snobby and unpleasant, despite Gaskell's often mentioning her good physical attributes- her ivory skin, dark hair, etc. However, as hard as it was to bring myself to like her, by the end of the book, I at least could pity her, though mostly because of what she goes through in the second half.

    This being said, in my opinion, the character that really makes this novel worth reading is Mr. Thornton. Even though I was not very much disposed to like him when he is first introduced (his being a Mill Owner was much of the reason- though not in the same way Margaret does), I thought that he turns out to be far more sympathetic than she does. I felt so sorry for him when Margaret rejected him (this occurs fairly early in the book, so I'm not spoiling anything by mentioning it)- unlike Mr. Darcy's first proposal in P&P, Mr. Thornton didn't do anything to deserve the thoroughly nasty and cold refusal Margaret gives him. I have to wonder why on earth he would fall in love with Margaret in the first place- no matter how beautiful she might be, she rarely says anything kind to him or shows any compassion for his feelings.

    This novel has been compared by others to Pride and Prejudice- I would say that this is a version of P&P where it's Mr. Darcy that the reader feels for and sympathizes with, rather than Elizabeth Bennet. (I am not a particularly big fan of Mr. Darcy, unlike many Janeites :) ).

    Altogether, it is a very good read, I just wish that the heroine weren't so annoying- Molly Gibson in Wives and Daughters is a far more pleasant character of Gaskell's.
    ...more info
  • Barton's North and South is a Horror among Horrors
    In summarizing my opinion of this book, I can only think of one word: revulsion. Perhaps I should qualify -- absolute revulsion would be the better description. Elizabeth Barton's "North and South" is the most boring, trifling, heinously insignificant, hyperfeminized novels I have yet to read. While the novel does touch on some important themes -- class warfare, the condition of women, and don't forgot, the godlessness of the heathen lower classes -- no true insight is gained that cannot be found in a middle school history textbook.

    The back cover describes North and South's heroine, Margaret Hale, as one of the "finest heroines of Victorian literature." Lies, I say. Lies. While Margaret does possess some independence of spirit, her self-sacrificing Christian character nevertheless humbles herself in love before a "benign" capitalist individualist, Mr. Thornton. Though people have spoken of North and South being a feminist novel, one need only read the first page of Bronte's earlier work, Jane Eyre, to find the former description flat.

    Barton's characters are hopelessly vacuous, her storylines inane and inspid, her understanding of the world hopelessly shortsighted. One thinks of Virginia Woolf, who once said that the greatest female writers needed only a room of their own to perfect their writing. Elizabeth Barton, however, needed far, far more....more info

  • a young woman among masters, men and gentlemen
    The title of Elizabeth Gaskell?s second novel poses a problem of interpretation. The novel does not adequately portray the alleged opposition of character between the Northern and Southern counties of England. Isn?t it rather a matter of dealing with an antagonism of class? According to the novel?s metonymic simplifications, the South is, as represented by the county of Hampshire, a backwater of superstition; London?s life is reflected in the superfluity and vanity of Harley Street; the Northern town of Milton (Manchester) is a place peopled exclusively by masters and workmen, with no trace of landowning aristocracy in it. These equivocations are nevertheless not to be imputed on Elizabeth Gaskell?s lack of perspective. It has more to do with the influence of Charles Dickens, who serialised the novel in Household Words and suggested a change of title. Gaskell?s intention had been to write the novel of a heroine, Margaret Hale, moving to the North, providing her name as the novel?s title. But Dickens saw more interest in North and South as title. The problem is that the novel does not pretend to be an accurate representation of the cultural geography of England in itself, but is merely a study of a female consciousness coming to grips with maturing in a new industrial city. This way, Elizabeth Gaskell?s original title would have done more justice to the novel.

    The classic heroine found in novels such as Jane Austen?s is here coming to grips with the evidence of disrupting forces that threaten the traditional English ideology under which she has been brought up. Margaret Hale?s challenge is to learn to accept change as a natural, even desirable, aspect of reality. On the other hand, the much loved parsonage of her parents? in Hampshire has never been answerable to expectations. When she first returns there from London, she finds the country to be not so pleasant as she had anticipated. Mr Henry Lennox is similarly disappointed. Her mother longs to leave. Then after they do leave, the country is again subject to idealisations.

    In the North the Hales meet the Thorntons, a family as proud of their cotton mill as shockingly limited in experience. A contemporary reviewer in 1855 criticised the novel for the lack of knowledge of the Cotton Trade it displays. Nevertheless, as a work of fiction, North and South is rather concerned with moral and spiritual issues than with the technicalities of commerce. This anonymous reviewer declared: "If there are two classes that should give trade and masters-and-men questions a wide berth, those classes are clergymen and women". The point of the novel is precisely to counteract this prejudice. If it fails on the side of accurate representative detail, this is somehow besides the point in a work of fiction.

    By exerting his practical political influence in the town, Mr John Thornton will secretly humiliate Margaret?s pride by doubting her purity, while delighting in his own self-torture over this matter. Margaret has been trying to assimilate her family?s and the town?s idiosyncrasies (her father is a Dissenter; her brother a mutineer converted to Roman Catholicism; his friends the Higginses are workers). The Thorntons, whose surname reminds us of Thor, the Norse god of thunder, claim the Germanic influence as the proper to the North (whereas the South and Oxford would rely on the classic civilisation, particularly the Greeks). Nevertheless, John thornton will be seen to be wanting in ruthlessness and it will be the fortune that comes from the South that helps him overcome his business difficulties.

    The struggle between Margaret and John Thornton is very much a power struggle in which the male is only adequately subdued when he is bankrupted, and the woman asserts herself only as a result of her becoming a heiress to her Oxford godfather. Nevertheless, Thornton has learnt the strategic importance of listening to the workers? complaints, and Margaret has become capable of using the power and influence that she acquires by means of her position in society. This is, she has learnt to appreciate the value of "work", of a sensitive feminine conscience at work in the midst of a society marked by constant struggle.

    "But she had learnt, in those solemn hours of thought, that she herself must one day answer for her own life, and what she had done with it; and she tried to settle that most difficult problem for women, how much was to be utterly merged in obedience to authority, and how much might be set apart for freedom in working."
    ...more info
  • Too long and detailed
    This is the first Elizabeth Gaskell book I've ever read and unfortunately not very impressed. The overall subject seems to be the love story in our heroine's life, however, book tries to give so many other mesages that it is not fun or focused anymore. There are social issues, emerging new worker-master dynamics in the victorian time, continues questioning of death and beyond... Within all this it is impossible to get a true taste of a social, phylosophical or romance novel.
    Although I like the period books very much, I could barely finish this one. However I watched the series from BBC and it was very good! I suggest the series over the book in this case....more info
  • Mrs. Gaskell's fine Victorian Novel is well worth a 21st century perusal!
    Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell is little known today compared to such other Victorion female geniuses as the Bronte sisters and George Eliot. While not in the first rank of these
    authors Mrs. Gaskell could tell a story.
    Her characters are well drawn and her novels while often
    slow are satisfying to patient readers.
    North and South first appeared in monthly installments in
    "Household Words" periodical whose editor was the greatest
    English novelist Charles Dickens. Dickens said of North and
    South,"An admirable story full of character and power."
    The sory begins in southern England where we meet the family
    of the Rev. Mr. Hale. He has doubts about the Church of England
    and resigns his vicarage to take a tutorship in the industrial
    north of England in a mythical town called Milton. The novel
    deals with the industrial unrest of the mid-19th century. A love
    story triangle involves Elizabeth with a lawyer and a fascinating company owner named John Thornton. Margaret has
    to deal with the situation of a brother named Frederick who has
    been forced to flee England due to his involvement in a naval
    mutiny.
    There are several tragic pages in this novel but all is resolved at the end. Gaskell was the wife of a Unitarian pastor;
    a liberal and reformer who was a good friend of Charlotte Bronte.
    In her short life (1810-1865) she wrote several novels; raised
    a family and served others with loving service. She is a fine
    novelist who deserves a wider readership.
    ...more info
  • A Botch. Not as Good as the Splendid 2004 BBC Miniseries.
    The best thing about Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South" may be that it inspired the superlative 2004 BBC miniseries by the same name. In fact, the miniseries was so good the day I finished watching it I began reading Gaskell's novel.

    Given its failings, it is miraculous that director Brian Percival, writer Sandy Welch, Martin Phipps, who wrote the score, and the entire excellent cast were able to create such a stunning miniseries out of this less than stellar novel.

    "North and South" has its appeal. If you are interested in class relations in Manchester, England during the Industrial Revolution, and the transition from an agrarian culture to a mercantile one, you have to read this book. And, if you are one of us who was stung by the "North and South" bug thanks to the BBC miniseries, nothing will stop you from reading this novel.

    But if you are craving a richly worded, expansively populated, nineteenth century novel, by all means read Dickens, Austen, the Brontes, and their fellow English-language writers in America -- Twain, Alcott -- before you read Gaskell's "North and South."

    It's a botch. Gaskell's talent shines through, but her need for a good editor is evident on every page. There are obvious errors, such as her giving one character two separate names. Pages and pages of footnotes and explanatory notes are meant to pick up where Gaskell fell short.

    Characterizations of the main characters, Margaret and Thornton, are unforgivably weak. Margaret never became a fully fledged character. Oddly, minor characters -- Mr. Bell and Dixon, a maid -- are much stronger.

    The central relationship, between Margaret and John Thornton, is underfed to the point of anorexia. Who are these two people? Why do they care about each other? Do they care about each other? They don't come across as fully rounded human beings at all, but as didactic cut-outs Gaskell has trumped up to sell an idea -- and a fine idea it is -- of class and lifestyle reconciliation during a time of traumatic shifts in English traditional life.

    Transitions are handled amazingly poorly. Climactic confrontations thud -- or, worse, tinkle -- on the page. Tension is mentioned between two characters, and suddenly you realize that they are in the same room, and, and, and ... nothing happens.

    Gaskell constantly -- on almost each page -- makes references to other literature, high and low, familiar and obscure, and much too much of it simply middlebrow. Again, the reader is left to leaf through pages of explanatory notes to penetrate these allusions.

    These allusions suggest literary laziness on Gaskell's part. Rather than animating a unique, living, breathing, human being in whom the reader can invest, Gaskell tells us that a given character is like the Biblical Vashti or like Cleopatra.

    All these allusions to other literature, and use of allusions to do the work of creating characters or atmosphere that Gaskell's writing is not doing, prevent the reader from ever experiencing the most elemental of literary pleasures -- entering another world. Rather than entering another world when reading Gaskell's "North and South," one enters an annotated Anthology of World Literature. The book tastes of leftovers.

    One of the most poignant moments in the BBC miniseries occurs when Mr. Thornton, watching Margaret depart from him, wishes that she would turn her head and look at him one last time. This moment pulses, it feels thrillingly inhabited and spontaneously alive. All distance of time, class, dialect, between the viewer and the 19th century gentleman in the high collar melts. You're certain you've felt the same thing when watching a loved one depart, even if you never have.

    In the novel, this scene is crafted with all the subtlety of a putty knife. It's stiff, and it's dead. Here's a quote, from page 399: "...she kept rigidly to her resolution but in the respect and high regard which she had hoped would have ever made him willing, in the spirit of Gerald Griffin's beautiful lines, 'To turn and look back when thou hearest the sound of my name.'"

    Be honest, now; don't tell me that that is good writing.

    Again, the book has its charms. The BBC miniseries made me fall in love with these characters, and I had to read the book just as a way to avoid letting go of them.

    But I wish Mrs. Gaskell had had a better editor, to eliminate the chaff in this book, and burnish the worthy passages that are here to shine as brightly as the good intentions behind their creation warranted.

    ...more info
  • Will read it again and again!
    After having seen the BBC's version of North & South, I couldn't wait to read the book. I wasn't disappointed at all! Although well over 400 pages, the book moved along at a good pace. The characters were all very well developed and very interesting. The best part was that Mrs. Gaskell writes from multiple perspectives rather than from just one POV. It was refreshing to find out just what Mr. Thornton WAS thinking! :-) The charcacters were not so numerous to be confusing, and each one was intersting and well thought out. This book has become another favorite and will be read again and again!...more info
  • North and South
    This is a darling book. If you have seen the movie the BBC did recently, the book is slightly different but still charming....more info
  • "brutalised both as to his pleasures and his pains"
    North and South is a very ambitious novel, and the fact that it has flaws in the execution do not detract from its successes.

    It is, first of all, a social novel. It explores the differences between the industrialized north of England and the older more agricultural life in the south. The characters are all gripped by the hand of change-- changing religious beliefs, changing relationships between master and servant, changing expectations of family life and changing socio-economic conditions. What Gaskell does very well in North and South is forefront these critical themes. Since the novel is also a love story, it would have been easy to use the social aspects of the novel as nothing but pretty backdrop. Instead, Gaskell places it front and center-- to the point where occasionally the relationship between Margaret and John feels like nearly an afterthought. I like the emphasis-- it saves the novel from being a Pride & Prejudice retread. It may, however, account for some of the oddities of pacing noted by other reviewers.

    As a reader, I really love the small moments in the novel. There is a wonderful scene when Margaret realizes that her habit of visiting the worthy poor is much less acceptable in the industrial north. She recoils when her offer to visit a sick neighbor girl is seen as condescending and possibly unwanted. That small moment captures volumes both about the character of Margaret and about the world in which she lives.

    This is the third book by Elizabeth Gaskell that I have read. I believe that it is the best of the three (the others being Mary Barton and Cranford). Considering how much I enjoyed the other two novels, this is very high praise. I would recommend North and South to anyone interested in the social novels of the Victorian period, historical fiction with a focus on labour issues, or works that critiqued the role of women in Victorian society.

    It is a moving, entertaining and thought-provoking book....more info
  • An excelent book to any person
    You have to get familiar with the characters and then you slowly star to love them all.
    At the beggining I felt sorry to poor Mr Lennox,he was a Miss Hale's friend but he took her love for granted and he was rejected by her.
    Miss Hale is a nineteen years old girl who has always lived in a confortable way with her parents but some day Mr Hale finds that his faith has change and he can not continue in the church with such doubts and they decided to move to the north of England.
    Mrs Hale gets sick because the air and the rhythm or life in such a place is very hard to face however the family find a house where to live and a new way to start all over. They meet Mr John Thornton a mill's owner who wants to become a more educated person learning some literature now that Mr Hale has become a tutor in his new hometown.
    The prejudices Miss Hale shows for him at the beggining and the tough way of Mr Thornton made them fell uneasy every time they meet however this are the very things that make them get closer and realize that north and south can not be so different after all and that the things one place lacks can be fulfill by the other place.
    It is a masterpiece.I was so glad I bought this incredible good book.
    I red it and just want to read it again....more info
  • classic antagonism - happily reconciled
    I know it sounds like a clich®¶ - promoting one book by comparing it to another - but I can't help telling that "N&S" resembles Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" a bit.

    N&S is about Hampshire-born(the South)Margaret Hale forced to leave her beloved home in the southern countryside as his father - a former parson - resigns his parsonage because of religious doubts and takes his family to Milton in Darkshire (the North). There Margaret makes friends with Nicholas Higgins, a poor, but hones and upright weaver and union man and his mortally ill daughter, Bessy. Their circumstances make her even more prejudiced against the North.
    She is appalled at the industrial, noisy, polluted and cruel milieu embodied in John Thornton, a proud, successful northern mill-owner, her father's pupil. Although Thornton is a straightforward man of honour and decency, Margaret condemns him as ungentleman-like, greedy for profit and cruel to workers. Their different principles clash right from the start.

    Thornton is aware of Margaret's dislike and contempt for him and his ways but he cannot help falling passionately in love with her feeling all the while that he "is not good enough for her". Dramatic events - the riotous workers on strike threaten his life and Margaret shields him with her own body when they start to throw things at him - make him confess his love for Margaret which is indignantly rejected by the girl (she has acted upon pure and general charity and would have done the same for all her fellow-men).

    The drastic change of scenery and circumstances affect the whole family very badly, especially Margaret's mother, Mrs Hale, whose health is continuously failing her. Margaret struggles to keep up family peace, to help out in household chores - as no proper servant can be found - and to be a son and a daughter in one for her parents.
    There is a family secret hidden from public knowledge: Margaret's brother, Frederic Hale, former officer of the Navy, is in hiding and wanted for having been the ringleader of a mutiny. His return would surely cost him his life, however, Margaret writes him a letter begging his return as their mother's last wish is to see him once more before she dies.

    Frederic arrives and spends some time with his beloved family, but is compelled to go away as he is threatened with discovery.
    Mr Thornton sees him & his sister saying their goodbyes at the station and takes them for lovers. That is the first time that Margaret realizes she cares about the possible loss of his good opinion of her.

    Unfortunately he is not the only one they encounter at the station endangering not only Frederic's life (he is able to escape) but Margaret's reputation as well. It is John Thornton, the magistrate who helps to save both (the latter directly, the former indirectly).

    A chain of events change both Thornton's and Margaret's life taking Margaret back to the south, to London, and financial disaster is looming over Thornton, but they are fated to meet again ...

    Although this novel is not so witty and light as "P&P", it is still a very enjoyable read. I recommend the book to everyone who likes classic Victorian drama whether they have seen the stunning BBC mini series or not.
    ...more info
  • Like Pride and Prejudice with overt class politics
    You really have to love the Victorian novel to enjoy reading this book, but if you're someone who does, I highly reccommend it. It's the story of the changing fortunes of Margaret Hale as she journies from her girlhood home in the country (the South) to an industrial town in the North, and of her fairly genteel family's struggle to adapt to their new life. Margaret falls in hate/love with a captain of industry, Mr. Thornton, and the book has to work out how he'll learn to care for his working men and ultimately get together with Margaret Hale. This book strongly reminded me of Pride and Prejudice, but with class politics in the form of strikes and workingclass and industrialist characters. It's a really interesting read; if the characters seem at times a little inconsistent, I'll admit that I still stayed up all night to find out how Margaret and Mr. Thornton were finally going to get together....more info
  • Suprisingly modern and captivating
    Gaskell's sprawling and sometimes frustratingly uneven novel was in fact almost impossible for me to put down. Her characters--particularly Margaret, the conscience of the novel--are well-developed and more sophisicated in their construction than the characters in many of the other classically Victorian novels. The plot is slightly unwieldly, but certainly entertaining. Gaskell well understood how to keep an audience's attention. We are treated to what feels like a rich panorama of British society at the time Gaskell was writing, from the drawing-rooms of London to the smoky streets of the newly forming northern industrial cities.

    And the social mores of newly industrial Britian are thoroughly dissected by Gaskell and though she certainly moralizes, her social conscience is intellgient and more subtle than that present in the works of some of her contemporaries. Ultimately, there are real issues at stake in this novel--the inhumanity sometimes present in capitalistic societies and the inevitability of technological progress and societal change. Themes that certainly still apply to our contemporary world situation. In this way, Gaskell's novel has an interresting twinge of modernity in its implications. Plus, there's a moving love story as well, about fully-realized and interesting characters, with some of the best and wittiest dialogue saved for the very last scene......more info

  • Will read it again and again!
    After having seen the BBC's version of North & South, I couldn't wait to read the book. I wasn't disappointed at all! Although well over 400 pages, the book moved along at a good pace. The characters were all very well developed and very interesting. The best part was that Mrs. Gaskell writes from multiple perspectives rather than from just one POV. It was refreshing to find out just what Mr. Thornton WAS thinking! :-) The charcacters were not so numerous to be confusing, and each one was intersting and well thought out. This book has become another favorite and will be read again and again!...more info
  • The More Things Change. . .
    The more things change, the more they stay the same! In this present time of financial crisis, it is, perhaps, comforting to know that this cycle occured in the past, as it does in this book. Issues regarding capitalism, its opertion, its faults and failings are one of the many themes of this book.

    Margaret Hale and John Thornton are wonderful protagonists and their development toward personal and professional maturity is exciting to read. This book posits the possibility of a moral capitalism, that, while seemingly idealistic, might actually work if we try. Now might be a good time! ...more info
  • One of the greatest and most underrated Victorian novels
    I fell in love with this marvellous novel and it's main protagonists, Margaret Hale & John Thornton, when I first read it some five years ago. I remember when I was reading the chapters describing the riot at Thornton's mill while on the way home from work on the train, I was so caught up with the story that I nearly missed my stop.

    One of the things that particularly impresses me about "North and South" is that Elizabeth Gaskell actually concentrates as much, if not more, on the principal male character's (John Thornton's) sexual and romantic desires and inner life rather than on the main female character (Margaret Hale). This is somewhat unusual to find in a book by female writer of the Victorian era. I feel that it makes the character of John Thornton one of the most interesting and attractive in 19th century literature.

    His passionate love and desire for Margaret border on the obsessive at times. However, Elizabeth Gaskell details his torturous struggles with his emotions in such a empathethic way that you feel immensely drawn to Thornton from the first time you meet him. The scenes where Margaret rebuffs his attempts at a marriage proposal and the aftermath where he dazedly goes off into the countryside to calm down are vividly written.

    I thoroughly disagree with some of the other reviewer's comments below, especially the person on 17 March 2003 who cannot even get the author's name right. It makes you wonder if they have read the same book as I did. I have no respect for people who impose inappropriate and modern notions on a work from this era and give their opinions, with such a sneering tone, in a trite and dismissive critique.

    I know that there are many "North and South" fans out there who, like me, can appreciate the novel for what it is, not what they think it should be.

    It is simply a beautifully written, engaging and satisfying book....more info

  • Too long and detailed
    This is the first Elizabeth Gaskell book I've ever read and unfortunately not very impressed. The overall subject seems to be the love story in our heroine's life, however, book tries to give so many other mesages that it is not fun or focused anymore. There are social issues, emerging new worker-master dynamics in the victorian time, continues questioning of death and beyond... Within all this it is impossible to get a true taste of a social, phylosophical or romance novel.
    Although I like the period books very much, I could barely finish this one. However I watched the series from BBC and it was very good! I suggest the series over the book in this case....more info
  • A Botch. Not as Good as the Splendid 2004 BBC Miniseries.
    The best thing about Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South" may be that it inspired the superlative 2004 BBC miniseries by the same name. In fact, the miniseries was so good the day I finished watching it I began reading Gaskell's novel.

    Given its failings, it is miraculous that director Brian Percival, writer Sandy Welch, Martin Phipps, who wrote the score, and the entire excellent cast were able to create such a stunning miniseries out of this less than stellar novel.

    "North and South" has its appeal. If you are interested in class relations in Manchester, England during the Industrial Revolution, and the transition from an agrarian culture to a mercantile one, you have to read this book. And, if you are one of us who was stung by the "North and South" bug thanks to the BBC miniseries, nothing will stop you from reading this novel.

    But if you are craving a richly worded, expansively populated, nineteenth century novel, by all means read Dickens, Austen, the Brontes, and their fellow English-language writers in America -- Twain, Alcott -- before you read Gaskell's "North and South."

    It's a botch. Gaskell's talent shines through, but her need for a good editor is evident on every page. There are obvious errors, such as her giving one character two separate names. Pages and pages of footnotes and explanatory notes are meant to pick up where Gaskell fell short.

    Characterizations of the main characters, Margaret and Thornton, are unforgivably weak. Margaret never became a fully fledged character. Oddly, minor characters -- Mr. Bell and Dixon, a maid -- are much stronger.

    The central relationship, between Margaret and John Thornton, is underfed to the point of anorexia. Who are these two people? Why do they care about each other? Do they care about each other? They don't come across as fully rounded human beings at all, but as didactic cut-outs Gaskell has trumped up to sell an idea -- and a fine idea it is -- of class and lifestyle reconciliation during a time of traumatic shifts in English traditional life.

    Transitions are handled amazingly poorly. Climactic confrontations thud -- or, worse, tinkle -- on the page. Tension is mentioned between two characters, and suddenly you realize that they are in the same room, and, and, and ... nothing happens.

    Gaskell constantly -- on almost each page -- makes references to other literature, high and low, familiar and obscure, and much too much of it simply middlebrow. Again, the reader is left to leaf through pages of explanatory notes to penetrate these allusions.

    These allusions suggest literary laziness on Gaskell's part. Rather than animating a unique, living, breathing, human being in whom the reader can invest, Gaskell tells us that a given character is like the Biblical Vashti or like Cleopatra.

    All these allusions to other literature, and use of allusions to do the work of creating characters or atmosphere that Gaskell's writing is not doing, prevent the reader from ever experiencing the most elemental of literary pleasures -- entering another world. Rather than entering another world when reading Gaskell's "North and South," one enters an annotated Anthology of World Literature. The book tastes of leftovers.

    One of the most poignant moments in the BBC miniseries occurs when Mr. Thornton, watching Margaret depart from him, wishes that she would turn her head and look at him one last time. This moment pulses, it feels thrillingly inhabited and spontaneously alive. All distance of time, class, dialect, between the viewer and the 19th century gentleman in the high collar melts. You're certain you've felt the same thing when watching a loved one depart, even if you never have.

    In the novel, this scene is crafted with all the subtlety of a putty knife. It's stiff, and it's dead. Here's a quote, from page 399: "...she kept rigidly to her resolution but in the respect and high regard which she had hoped would have ever made him willing, in the spirit of Gerald Griffin's beautiful lines, 'To turn and look back when thou hearest the sound of my name.'"

    Be honest, now; don't tell me that that is good writing.

    Again, the book has its charms. The BBC miniseries made me fall in love with these characters, and I had to read the book just as a way to avoid letting go of them.

    But I wish Mrs. Gaskell had had a better editor, to eliminate the chaff in this book, and burnish the worthy passages that are here to shine as brightly as the good intentions behind their creation warranted.

    ...more info
  • NOT the Jakes Civil War Saga
    I am astounded to see so many glowing reviews here for the wrong book. Does no one at Amazon check these things? And how can so many readers, so enraptured with Jakes, fail to notice the very different author's name? Nevertheless. Mrs. Gaskell's NORTH AND SOUTH is gorgeous. It is a tale of self-discovery, labor upheaval in an increasingly industrialized England and, yes, love, and it is on a par with the best of George Eliot. It is ironic that readers here have mistakenly praised another book, for the rather generic title of Mrs. Gaskell's work had struck me as unfortunate from the start. One wonders just how more familiar her fine, fine novel would be under a name as commanding as, say, MIDDLEMARCH......more info