4 Nov 2014

Review - North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Title: North and South

Author: Elizabeth Gaskell

Rating: 5/5 stars

Synopsis: When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction.

My thoughts: How could I possibly describe the complexity of feelings Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South evoked in me? It won my heart completely. The basic oppositions in the book – north and south, light and dark, leisure and work, humility and pride – grow into something deeper than their simple selves throughout the pages. The main characters, Margaret and Mr. Thornton seem to represent the two parts of England and with it two kinds of lifestyle. Maybe at first we idolize the south ourselves, looking at it through Margaret’s eyes, and think Milton is hell compared to it, but later it seems just so natural to alter our opinions. I personally found Milton a great deal more interesting a place than Helstone – and not only because the love between Margaret and Mr. Thornton unfolded there, but because I strangely became interested in the class struggle that was part of the plot too. It was fascinating how the workmen organized the strike, and so were the things Mr. Thornton said about the relationship between ‘hands’ and masters.

I also liked to read about the great development in the latter towards the end of the book. Of course I melted every time Margaret’s thoughts about Mr. Thornton were expressed, but even more when I learned about Thornton’s thoughts about Margaret. The man has such a gentle heart, I always held my breath out of excitement when I came to read his musings on the beloved woman.

Thornton’s mother is a very well written character, it was entertaining to read her parts too, because she made me go ‘who this woman thinks she is’ many times. She is a very strong mother figure and I liked how protective she was of her son.

I feel I could go on forever and ever rambling about my favourite characters and parts, but I won’t. When I started to read this book I thought it was going to be about a girl, who moves from the south to the north, falls in love with a miller and, after having to face some difficulties, eventually they settle down with each other. Now that I’ve read it I can tell you, North and South is much more than this. It is an Experience and it is most certainly recommended to everyone (especially if you’ve read and like/d Jane Austen’s novels).

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