March 29th, 2013


Book Review: North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell

Northern manufacturers and southern agrarians in industrialized England.

North and South

Originally published in 1855. Approximately 183,000 words. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.

When Margaret Hale moves with her father from the comfort of the south of England to the industrial north, she is at first repulsed by what she sees; and then when she discovers the conditions under which the workers are forced to live, she is outraged. But this throws her into direct conflict with the powerful young mill-owner, John Thornton. Using personal passions to explore deep social divisions, North and South is a great romance and one of Elizabeth Gaskell's finest works.

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Verdict: Elizabeth Gaskell's writing did not knock me over, but her characters were more three-dimensional than most of her contemporaries and the plot wove together a multitude of themes. I find myself thinking of North and South mostly in terms of how it compares to other novels: not quite as grand as Middlemarch or Bleak House, but more human, while also being more down-to-earth than the romances of Austen or Bronte. A fine book and worth reading if you like British social novels, but if that sort of book isn't your cup of tea, this one won't change your mind.

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