Connie's Reviews > North and South

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Rate this book
Clear rating

's review
Oct 25, 13

bookshelves: with-reviews
Read from June 30 to July 07, 2011

This one gets somewhere between 3 and 4 stars. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, but it took me close to a month to get through. It's hard to tell if that just reflects my mood (I've been doing a lot of crafting lately), or if it reflects the fact that I just didn't find the book all that enthralling. Probably a bit of both.

I watched the BBC mini series a month or so ago, and loved it. Sure, there were some so-cheesy-that-I-want-to-scream scenes between the two main characters, but overall I found it fascinating. Here was a Jane Austen-esque mini series, but darker, moodier, and that extended beyond the characters and their lives--into the grim and rapidly changing world around them.

I appreciated the layers of the story: Margaret Hale's father dissents from the church and moves his family from a small idyllic, trapped-in-a-bygone-era town in the south of England, to the grimy, progressive, cotton manufacturing town of Milton in the North. Margaret starts out hating the town and everything it represents, but gradually begins to appreciate both the town, and the people that carry on their grueling and relentless duties in the pursuit of capital. Margaret and her family are uniquely positioned in the town's society, and Margaret travels throughout all branches of society. On the one hand, she befriends several lower class mill workers, and takes up their cause as they strike against the mill owners. At the same time, Margaret is expected to socialize with the mill owners--especially the capable, yet harsh, Mr. Thornton. Predictably, romance ensues, and Margaret is caught between these two very different classes.

The mini-series is a real mood piece--it seems that the entire piece was filmed with blue tinted filters to make Milton seem like the sun never reached it, and melancholy violins and violas were the heart of the soundtrack; meanwhile the residents of the town plodded on, downtrodden and miserable.

I was hoping for the book to reflect that same mood--but felt that the book felt flat in comparison. Although the mini series was a period piece, as I read the book, I realized just how much the miniseries put a modern flavor on the story. In the book version, Margaret became less of a protagonist and an actor--and became more of an entity tossed around a complex situation that she didn't, and couldn't understand. The book was, in many ways, a vehicle for discussion an economic and religious theories of the time--and less about the actors that existed in that time of rapid change. I kept hoping for Margaret to come up with her own viewpoints, and perhaps try to reconcile the classes, but instead she was mostly a passive observer.

The book wasn't bad, per se--just flat. I think the mini series tainted my perspectives too much for me to truly appreciate the book on its merits. For me--this was one of the extremely rare cases in which I enjoyed the film version more than the original.
1 like · Likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read North and South.
Sign In »

No comments have been added yet.