Oct 02, 13
Read from September 18 to October 02, 2013
I was enticed to buy this book because the introduction promised a more realistic depiction of the poor of Victorian England from a contemporary of Dickens. Well, it might be Dickensian, but I found her prose overwrought with lengthy descriptions of tortured emotion and fainting women. My interest piqued about half-way through when there is a murder, and the details thereof are hidden nicely, though it's pretty obvious whodunit and why... still, the question was "oh will they be able to uncover it before Saintly Young Man is hung for the crime he did not commit but is Too Good to deny lest he implicate another?"
The titular Mary does get to make a desperate search for the missing alibi - but she does so with such helplessness that her heroism is dependent on the kindness of children and old men, and as soon as the day is saved, she goes mad -yup, raving in a fever cured only by three chapters of waiting.
Then we learn the final repose of all characters yet alive - and Ms. Gaskell kills characters off left and right, especially at the beginning of the story, where one wonders how there are any poor left in Manchester, what with the rate at which they die.
Maybe I'm being mean. There's good stuff in here - some nuanced moments of characterization and a few anthropological details into daily life of the times, but generally I did not find it an enjoyable read.