Becky's Reviews > North and South

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
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Jul 27, 09

bookshelves: romance, classics, 2009, political, religion-related, reviewed
Read in July, 2009

OK, I want to preface this review by saying that there is a very good chance that poor timing has caused me to not enjoy this book as much as I probably would have otherwise. I chose to read this immediately after finishing the ridiculously fast-paced and, I'll admit, addictive Twilight series, thinking that a classic romance would, as I told a friend (probably "former" after she reads this review though), get me back into the habit of reading "big people books".

Unfortunately, North and South just frustrated me, nearly from start to finish.

I am a huge Austen fan. I find her witty, fun and funny, and smart as a whip. She is well-known for her social commentary, and yet when she is commenting on these rather serious social issues, it doesn't feel like a lecture. She manages to carry the story while still making her stance on whatever issue known, and isn't heavy-handed about it.

Sadly, Gaskell was quite different. I'm not one to shy away from serious issues, or from books that take those issues seriously and address them seriously. But Gaskell wasn't joking with this one. This is no light-hearted satire or social commentary. It's barely even romance, at least by my -perhaps biased- standards. Yes, there is a loving embrace at the end, but the 70 or so pages leading up to it had me so annoyed that it was almost not worth the happy ending.

I felt that every issue was dealt with in such a heavy-handed way that it all but interrupted the story. At times, I would be reading along, minding my own business, and then it's like I hit a Wall of Lecture and Deep Thought. Religion, class divisions, religion, workers' rights, religion, women's rights, etc, etc, etc. Each it's own wall, that I would unfortunately wander smack into time and again.

I wish that I had known what this book would have been like before I began reading it. I would have absolutely chosen a better time to read it, and a better mindset to read it in, and I guarantee that I'd have appreciated it more. I was looking for something light and romantic and fun. My idea of this book was formed by three good (and again, probably "former" after reading this) friends continually telling me that a certain leading male character was "melt-worthy" and that I would just fall in love with him, and that he is far superior to "Arsy Darcy" (not my term). Thus leading to my incorrect assumption that this is a classic romance similar to the ones I'm used to reading.

I wish I could say that I melted for Mr. Thornton. Probably stemming from the Wall of Lecture and Deep Thought encircling most of his parts, I just didn't see it. He can be quite stubborn and set in his ways, but this also has the pleasant counter-part of being extremely loyal. I didn't understand his motives when it came to the strike, but I freely admit that he is fair and only became more fair as the book progressed. There was a time when I felt that he was rather a Mama's boy, but this idea passed too as their relationship became more clear. I wish that Gaskell would have shown us more of his actual character, rather than the little snapshots we see of him on his own, and the very colored view we have of him through Margaret.

And speaking of Margaret. *sigh* I began the story quite liking her, but by the end, I wanted the union between she and Mr. T simply because it would make HIM happy. She didn't deserve him, in my opinion. Someone so stubborn and set in her mind to think the worst of people that she thinks think the worst of her is just stupid. Sorry. It's true. Swallow your pride a bit and explain yourself if it bothers you OH SO MUCH that he must hold this atrocious opinion of you. At least then if he still hates you, you could say that you TRIED. UGH. Granted, this is probably my modern feminism coming through, and isn't fair to someone who can't go somewhere on her own, but... wait. What's that? Margaret was independent? Oh, Hmmmmmm. I swear if she could have taken up sheep-shearing, she probably would have done it to avoid the knowledge that she certainly HAD to have that she should just go and talk to him. Yet the entire time, she'd be moaning to herself about how misunderstood she is. (Can you hear my eyes rolling? I'm getting dizzy.)

I ended up giving the book a three star review for a couple reasons. One, I fully admit that I didn't do this book justice reading it in the wrong frame of mind. Two, Mr. Thornton. I did like him, even though I didn't fully understand him. And anyone who is willing to give people second chances and is willing to go into ruin himself just for honor is worth at least that much in a review. Three, the movie, which I haven't seen yet, but is a BBC mini-series, so it's probably awesome.

Now that I'm done, I would like to say... To all of my former friends, I still love you! :)
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Reading Progress

07/20/2009 page 187
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Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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Liz (Consumed by Books) I just have to say, I noticed you have the Penguin edition--I have this edition of Dracula for a class, and the day I bought it I saw my friends later and couldn't help going, "Dracula, with a neon green cover with cute penguins on it?!?!? Really???"


Becky Haha, I don't actually have the book, I just added it to my list, and this was the version that came up first. I probably will end up getting the Penguin edition when I get the book, but most likely it will be this one:
North and South (Penguin Classics) by Elizabeth Gaskell


Liz (Consumed by Books) Those are nice. Have you seen the mini-series of this book? It's really good!


Becky Nope, I haven't seen that, but I've heard it's really good.


Liz (Consumed by Books) You should watch it once you finish the book. I am constantly searching for this book, but lately every time I go into a bookstore, it's ben out of stock :(


Becky They had one copy at B&N when I went there yesterday... Now you're worrying me that I won't be able to find it when I want it!

Uh oh.

I will not buy it before my book ban is over.
I will not buy it before my book ban is over.
I will not buy it before my book ban is over.

;)


Fiona Haha, be strong Becky!


Becky I'll just go sit in the corner and remind myself that Amazon will sell me any book in print. And Ebay will fill in the gaps. Or Bookmooch, or paperbackswap. Or I could just make my way to England and "borrow" your copy Fiona! :)


Liz (Consumed by Books) Ahh Becky I'm sorry, I didn't mean to worry you--you will be able to find it! Amazon will always be there!


Kandice I'm still your friend dear Becky. I am perfectly content to NOT share Mr. T with you.

As far as Miss Margaret goes, I think you're right about frame of mind. I know you have read books we agree on in the past, giving female characters latitude because of the time they live in.

Right after Twilight Crack just wasn't the perfect time...


Allison (The Allure of Books) *removes Buh from friend list*

haha, no...I respect your opinion, and am happy I still only have to share Mr. T with two other people (he told me I'm his favorite anyway...HE IS NOT A DELUSION).

I do hope you warm up to the movie a bit more, although early reports from Part 1 aren't looking good :P

Anyway, I'm glad you gave it a go :)


Kandice Allison wrote: "*removes Buh from friend list*

haha, no...I respect your opinion, and am happy I still only have to share Mr. T with two other people (he told me I'm his favorite anyway...HE IS NOT A DELUSION)...."


He was simply trying to keep you from losing heart. I am, and always be, his favorite. LOL




message 13: by Jon (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jon wow controversy!


Becky Kandice wrote: "I'm still your friend dear Becky. I am perfectly content to NOT share Mr. T with you.

As far as Miss Margaret goes, I think you're right about frame of mind. I know you have read books we agree on in the past, giving female characters latitude because of the time they live in."


Yes... But, I really just didn't understand why she wouldn't just go call on Mama T and oh, what a coincidence, Mr. T happens to live there too, and she COINCIDENTALLY has something that has been nagging her for like... a year... and she just really wants to clear up any misunderstanding. How fortuitous that she should run into him and be able to get her worries off her chest, rather than dwelling on them, and in his own house, too! O_o


Allison (The Allure of Books) oh, go read about some incest with Marquis de Sade whatever.

*rolls eyes*


Becky Allison wrote: "oh, go read about some incest with Marquis de Sade whatever.

*rolls eyes*"


=\ Really?


Allison (The Allure of Books) sorry that was mean <33333


Liz (Consumed by Books) Allison wrote: "oh, go read about some incest with Marquis de Sade whatever.

*rolls eyes*"

That has got to be one of the best literary comebacks ever!




Becky Liz wrote: "Allison wrote: "That has got to be one of the best literary comebacks ever!"

LOL No, it's not! She was just being snotty! It's a good thing I like her anyway. ;)


Fiona *slithers in*

Hello, friend.

*slithers out*

Will you be joining Al and I for Wives and Daughters, another superb Gaskell?


Allison (The Allure of Books) ...with another superb BBC miniseries.


Becky Well, that is a very good question. I'm not sure. I'll give it some thought. Perhaps I should start with something shorter, like Cranford, and see if that works for me. :)


Liz (Consumed by Books) Becky wrote: "Liz wrote: "Allison wrote: "That has got to be one of the best literary comebacks ever!"

LOL No, it's not! She was just being snotty! It's a good thing I like her anyway. ;)"

Well, at any rate, it made me laugh...sorry...:( heehee




Allison (The Allure of Books) glad you thought I was funny Liz :) haha


message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

But I found this novel to be very romantic and my heart beat very fast eveytime Margaret and Mr. Thornton were in the same room.

I would highly recommend watching the BBC mini-series because the actor who played Mr. Thornton will melt your heart. I thought they did an awesome jobs with the mini-series and felt it was much more romantic than the book.


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