Wednesday, October 13, 2021

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

 Title:  North and South

Author: Elizabeth Gaskell

Narrated by:  Juliet Stevenson

Publisher: Audible

Length: Approximately 18 hours and 20 minutes

Source: Purchased from Audible. 

 North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is a November pick for the JASNA Northwoods Book Club.  I watched the miniseries years ago and was excited to finally read this book.

 Margaret Hale has returned home after growing up with her cousin Edith in London.  Edith has recently married, and Margaret has returned to her country home to live with her parents. Her world is upended when her father announces that he has broken with the Church of England, and they are moving to the northern industrial town of Milton.  While Mr. Hale finds new work as a tutor, Margaret and Mrs. Hale have a hard time adjusting to life in such a different place.  When Margaret meets Mr. Thornton, a mill owner tutored by her father, she does not his gruff ways or the way he treats his mill workers.  As Margaret gets to know some of the workers, she feels for their plight.  As tensions come to a head in Milton, will Margaret and Mr. Thornton find their place in the world?

 I really enjoyed this one.  Margaret is a strong character, but I really enjoyed the discussion of the rights of people.  Is someone a better person because they have money?  Because they are educated?  What exactly is a “lady” or a “gentleman?”  If someone is poorer than a laborer, but is educated, why are they still a “gentlemen?  There were a lot of great questions in this novel to ponder. 

 I have always enjoyed stories and the history of the labor movement.  This was a topic of interest when I was in college that I wrote about in my freshman paper and was explored in the Copper Country history class that I also took.  I was intrigued.  This book seemed related to Shirley by Charlotte Bronte, but it has been a while since I read that book.  It almost seemed like Shirley crossed with Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

 North and South is a novel that deals with a lot of loss.  (SPOILER ALERT) Poor Margaret Hale loses her home, parents, her godfather, and her brother.  She has to learn now to deal with these loses and move forward in a world where she doesn’t have independence as a woman.  It’s a sad book, but ultimately, I like to see how Margaret is able to deal with her loss.

 I liked that we also go Thornton’s thoughts on things too. The story is told from his point of view in alternating chapters, and I loved it.  I really loved the love story between Margaret and Thornton.  It was a great tale of pride and prejudice.  I think the story was set up perfectly for both of them to make the changes needed to have a happy ending.

 I listened to the audiobook narrated by Juliet Stevenson and read along in my Norton Critical Edition.  I loved the notes and essays in the Norton Critical Edition.  Juliet Stevenson is an excellent narrator.  I have enjoyed her before and will look for her again with other future audiobooks.

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