Ok, I could not--COULD NOT--finish this. Maybe it was just too close on the heels of Vanity Fair. Maybe I'm just sick of High Victorian Melodrama. Mayb...moreOk, I could not--COULD NOT--finish this. Maybe it was just too close on the heels of Vanity Fair. Maybe I'm just sick of High Victorian Melodrama. Maybe I've just tried to read too much 19th century literature in a (relatively) short space of time. Whatever it was, I could barely stand reading this, which really is a shame as I normally quite like Elizabeth Gaskell. But, since it had gotten to the point that I was having to force myself to read this book (which was supposed to be for pleasure), and hating nearly every minute of it, and so aggravated I constantly wanted to argue with someone over it, I decided that enough was enough, and that I'm not actually obligated in anyway to finish it.
To make at least a few notes on the books itself, you can tell it's an early book (her first, I think?). Writing wise, it lacks maturity and polish, and awareness of what actually makes a good narrative. The story itself is conceivably good except, as I mentioned before, the extreme melodrama of it. And while the subject is very interesting (Trade Unions and striking workers in the 1840's, relations between the classes in Manchester, possibilities and consequences of seeking marriage outside one's class) the entire book is written with a sort of condescension which exposes Gaskell as the upper-middle class outsider that she was: someone who ultimately doesn't and probably can't (or just won't) really understand what she's talking about, all of her work with the poor notwithstanding. Her sympathies are too completely with the masters--even when she knows they're wrong, and even when she tries to show understanding for the workers. She never stops defending the system, never stops criticizing Trade Unions, the Chartists, the Communists, or any radical/progressive movement or thought which vocally and forcefully questions the justice of the current system. She seems to be wringing her hands at all the violence and anger, but whenever presented with an actual problem she has no answer except the vague, feel-good, and essentially useless sentiment of, "Well, who knows why these horrible things happen; let's all just hold hands, love one another, and trust God to do something." Basically, all of the problems I've had with her other writings--her simplistic treatment of the poor, her (very Victorian) obsession with "maiden-modesty" etc, her refusal to questions current mores or the privilege and unneeded wealth of the upper classes--are here in full force, and whereas in Wives and Daughters & North and South these were relatively small issues in otherwise superbly written tales that were well thought out and thought provoking, in this novel it's the entire focus and just plain provoking.(less)
I can't decide if I like this book or not. It was ok. Parts of the story kept me riveted, but then other parts... Let's just say I don't find the rela...moreI can't decide if I like this book or not. It was ok. Parts of the story kept me riveted, but then other parts... Let's just say I don't find the relationship between Esther and her guardian to be at all sweet, mostly just... ewwww.... And if I never ready another story that uses the awful, stupid trope of the tragic death of a fallen woman, it'll be too soon.(less)
I hated this book. HATED it. The only thing that stops me from giving it just one star instead of two is that the writer in me has to admit it was wel...moreI hated this book. HATED it. The only thing that stops me from giving it just one star instead of two is that the writer in me has to admit it was well written. So good for you, Emily Bronte! You can write a story! I still hated it. What drove me freaking bonkers while reading it was know that thousands of people go gaga over it and consider it OMG THE GREATEST LOVE STORY EVAR! Seriously. It was listed number one on the top ten love stories of all time (or top twenty or whatever--it was a NY Times list or something.) Guh. I don't get it. There were several moments in the book when I'd be drawn in, and suddenly find myself rooting for this character or that and be really interested and want to know what was going to happen next... and then that character would turn into either an idiot or a psychopath (serisouly, there's not much exageration here), and I would just get fed up and disgusted and hope the damn book was going to be over soon. So yeah. My obligation to the classics is now discharged in that I can said I read this book and discuss it with a dollop of inteligence and understanding should anyone wish to do so. And that's it.(less)