Batsheva's Reviews > North and South

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
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's review
Aug 06, 2012

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bookshelves: historical, classic, e-book
Read in March, 2012

I first saw the miniseries adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's "North & South" about life in an industrial textile mill town in England on Netflix. I thought it was great, all about the mills, the health issues, tension between union and management, the changes of agricultural transforming into industrial. I think I watched all 4 episodes (hours of BBC Goodness!) in one sitting. Unlike most British period dramas I enjoy, where the appeal is in attractive people in beautiful costumes in picturesque settings, "North & South" was gritty and fairly realistic. Afterwards, I downloaded the e-book version - everything published before 1913 appears to be free! - and was a little disappointed in how silly some of the dialogue was, in contrast with its weighty subject matter. (It should be noted that much of the dialogue was also wonderful and was used word for word in the series.)
I also realize Gaskell was writing a serial for a magazine, so she needed some fluffy stuff to keep her audience reading. There is an interesting relationship between the heroine and the guy who owns the mill, which is somewhat compromised by some seriously baroque internal agonizing by the main parties. One of my teachers, an expert on 19th century women's literature, pointed out that "... it's a quality of much 19th-century literature to treat sexuality and relationships in oblique, convoluted ways, so I'm not surprised you found the mini-series more satisfying. Also, 19th-century prose tends to be dense and overly descriptive (Dickens et al.)." (corr. with J. Raser Apr. 1, 2012).

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