Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Review: North and South

North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855. 452 pages. [Source: Bought]

Have you read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell? Have you watched the movie at least?!?! North and South is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite books. I first read it in May 2010. I then listened to the audio book and watched the movie. Subsequent reviews followed in 2011, 2012, and 2014.

Margaret Hale is our heroine. She has spent most of her childhood in London living with her aunt and cousin. But when the novel opens, change is fast approaching. Her cousin is getting married, and, soon Margaret will return to her own family. Mr. Hale is a vicar whose conscience is burdening him. He finds he simply can't remain in the Church of England any longer. He resigns his post much to the dismay and disappointment of his wife and daughter. (Mr. Hale doesn't make the best first impression when he leaves his daughter to break the news to his wife. He leaves a lot of unpleasant duties to his daughter.)

The Hale family moves to the North of England, to a mill town, Milton. Mr. Hale takes a job as a tutor. One of his students--in fact, the only student that we know by name--is John Thornton, a master of one of the mills in town. Margaret and John take notice of each other--for better or worse. Though if you've seen the movie, it is NOTHING AT ALL like the first meeting in the book. The movie does add drama, the book is more subtle.

Margaret befriends the Higgins family (Nicholas, Bess, and Mary). Nicholas (the father) and Bess (the oldest daughter) work in the mills. (Bess is Margaret's best friend.) Through this friendship she learns the perspective of the working class. (She "learns" the perspective of the masters/mill owners through her un-friendship with John Thornton.) Soon Margaret has formed opinions and conclusions of her own which she's not shy to voice.

But these first few years in Milton are bittersweet at best. I won't mention all the reasons why--needless to say that Margaret is given plenty of opportunities to despair and complain OR to place her hope in God and keep going.

So what do I love about this one? I love Margaret. I love, love, love, love, LOVE John Thornton. I love Nicholas, Bess, Mr. Bell and Mr. Hale. Mrs. Thornton is joy from a distance! Essentially, I really like to spend time with these characters. These characters are friends of mine. We've spent LOTS of time together through the years. I love the romance. All the scenes--or almost all the scenes--between John and Margaret. I love the focus on friendship--particularly Bess and Margaret. Bess' words have stuck with me through the years.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


hopeinbrazil said...

I've got both the book and the audiobook on my Kindle and your review convinced me to make it my next read. Thanks for a great review!

Shelley said...

I loved the book and the movie. Such a great story and Mr. Thornton is dreamy. I love the Higgins family.