Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South

Ugh! This one is angsty! If you love books with a deep romantic vein, this one is for you. I found that readers that enjoy books like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go also enjoy this book. Readers follow Margaret Hale who is, for all intents and purposes, an English southern bell. Margaret is a well-educated young woman. She moves up north to the mill town of Milton with her family. There, she meets John Thornton, a factory owner, whom she loathes from the beginning and judges as cruel but eventually grows to love him.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the BBC’s adaptation of this book featuring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe. For Tolkien fans everywhere, Richard Armitage went on to portray Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit Trilogy. He does good acting work in that gruff, stuffy British way. Like in the book, viewers of the adaptation are kept in that romantic purgatory awaiting the moment John Thornton reveals his true feelings for Margaret. We hold are breathe as she is leaving in that carriage. Bitch, turn around and look at him! When you see it, you’ll understand.

I dare not hope. I never was fainthearted before; but I cannot believe such a creature cares for me.

Though it may seem like just another romantic novel, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is actually a really important historical book with a lot of important British history subtly woven within the plot. It is a snapshot of life for men and women during the Industrial Revolution. The struggle between classes, both economic and social, is evident in the notions Margaret has about human decency and, overall, her criticism of England’s exploitative capitalist practices. Interestingly enough, their union as a couple can be read, theoretically, as the inherent need for the unionization of workers to improve working conditions and bolster the middle class. Phew! I went really deep in my analysis there. But, it’s true. Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South is to the Industrial Revolution as Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice is to the Romantic Period. It’s such a good book, and it’s such a dreamy adaptation. Check it out!

Works Cited

“North and South Quotes.” Goodreads, Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/1016482-north-and-south.


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