May 08, 10
Recommended to Julie by:
Mom, Omdog, anyone interested in history/lit of the period
Read from May 02 to 09, 2010, read count: 1
I feel as though I have a lot to say about this book, but I'm not sure if I will be able to marshal my thoughts effectively.
North and South fills an interesting niche in the literature of the time. The author closely examines two dichotomies: that of Northern England vs. Southern, and that of the masters of the manufacturing world vs. the 'hands,' or their employees.
In both cases, Gaskell seems to give a pretty fair accounting to each side. There are positives and negatives raised in each case, and yet on the whole she has quite a sympathetic view, a view which her characters come to adopt over the course of the novel. Mrs. Gaskell clearly has the talent that some people lack - the talent to view all individuals as human beings, taking in consideration their motivations and their good or bad qualities before forming an opinion of their character.
The main characters (Margaret Hale, John Thornton, Nicholas Higgins, Mr. Hale) get the best benefit of this, though, while some of the side characters (especially Edith and Dixon) are exposed to ridicule with less effort made to be understanding about their faults. (Personally, I wanted to climb in the book and slap Edith at a couple of points.)
Overall, I think the book is a really fascinating look at the world of a manufacturing town of its time period, and deserves recognition for its unbiased presentation of differences between North and South, and masters and men.*
* It should be duly noted that the Irish in no way benefit from this humanistic approach. Seriously, I was shocked to hear even sympathetic Margaret Hale describe one of her less gracious feelings as "Irish." She has less disdain for a superstitious English provincial who roasted a cat than for the Irish as a whole. I mean, REALLY.
Another note: I actually saw the BBC film adaptation a long while before reading the book. I can already tell you (having yet to rewatch it) that while the casting is excellent, there are at least two major scenes completely fabricated for the film version. I guess they didn't think the novel was entirely film-worthy, or something.