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Past Group Reads > North and South - Starting the Read

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message 1: by Simon (last edited Feb 29, 2016 07:22AM) (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 108 comments This is the initial thread to talk about starting to read North and South and your expectations. Plot Spoilers should instead go into the "complete discussion" thread.

We may also have threads for the book up to a certain point, like end of chapter 1 soon, if people like to discuss that way. Feel free to open such a thread.

message 2: by Simon (last edited Feb 29, 2016 07:21AM) (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 108 comments I'm really looking forward to reading this. A popular goodreads review says it's "Pride and Prejudice for socialists". Apparently there's a lot of intense emotions between the characters.
Also, it seems there's a great BBC film production of the story to look forward to.

message 3: by Katie (new)

Katie (infinityismine) | 1 comments Yay! I'm so excited about this. I've had it on my shelf for ages so I'm really excited to get into it

message 4: by Trudy (last edited Feb 29, 2016 06:20AM) (new)

Trudy Brasure | 28 comments The BBC adaptation of "North & South" was a surprise hit when it first aired ten years ago in the UK. The response to the last episode is legendary, eventually crashing the BBC message board set up for viewers to discuss the show. (Here's a first-hand account of the effect N&S had when it first aired

I'd recommend watching it (Netflix, Amazon Instant) before reading to get the full dramatic impact from the film. But if you're a "book first" person, then so be it. I understand. ;)

message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan Oleksiw | 119 comments I just read a few of the postings from the time of the BBC drama. I had no idea this book/dramatization was so wildly popular. This should be an interesting and exciting read.

message 6: by Simon (last edited Feb 29, 2016 07:30AM) (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 108 comments By the way, there's another novel (and TV drama) of the same name, North and South, by John Jakes, covering the American Civil war.
To be clear, we're reading Elisabeth Gaskell's North and South, which plays in England.
I hope this doesn't surprise anyone ;)
Here's more on the BBC TV drama from 2004:

message 7: by Whitney (new)

Whitney (whitneychakara) | 14 comments I bought one of those black penguin editions years ago. Hopefully I can pull it out when I finish Wuthering Heights.

message 8: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 219 comments Simon wrote: "We may also have threads for the book up to a certain point, like end of chapter 1 soon, if people like to discuss that way. Feel free to open such a thread. .."

It depends on how serious a discussion is wanted and how committed the group is to a serious discussion. I have always found that the best discussions happen when the book is discussed in sections rather than in a single thread.

But I'm probably not going to make the North and South discussion anyhow, it would be a re-read and not a book I am that interested in rereading, so this is just my general opinion and not important for this discussion unless other people agree.

message 9: by Tracey (new)

Tracey (traceyrb) Are we having a reading schedule for this? That way we can discuss in sections as we all progress through the book. This is one book I haven't read before although I know the basic story.

message 10: by Simon (last edited Mar 02, 2016 01:41AM) (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 108 comments We don't usually make schedules, as people read at different paces, and by opening threads for sections, everyone can contribute at their own pace.
I'm opening a thread for the (short) chapters 1-2 as i have some early questions.

message 11: by Alan (new)

Alan | 40 comments I find it interesting that Gaskell's novel was serialized in Household Words, which was edited by Charles Dickens, beginning in September 1854, immediately after Hard Times had completed its serial run. It's also interesting that Dickens chose the title; Elizabeth Gaskell intended to name it for Margaret Hale.

message 12: by Simon (last edited Mar 02, 2016 06:52AM) (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 108 comments Interesting indeed! I read about the serialization, and that the book later published was slightly expanded because the serial format was limiting and overhurrying the structure previously intended by the author.
Isn't the writing also similar to Dickens?

message 13: by Susan (new)

Susan Oleksiw | 119 comments I don't find the descriptions as sharp as Dickens but I also have a feeling that it's more thoughtful in a gentle way. I may have to pull out something by Dickens and real that one along with Gaskell.

message 14: by Alan (new)

Alan | 40 comments I'm almost tempted to read Hard Times again to try to replicate a bit of the experience!

message 15: by Trudy (last edited Mar 02, 2016 08:21AM) (new)

Trudy Brasure | 28 comments Gaskell's first novel, Mary Barton (1848), has grittier descriptions of the conditions of the working poor than North and South. It might be a better comparison to Dickens' style in Hard Times.
Having lauded Mary Barton, Dickens practically begged Gaskell to write for Household Words. But he assumed Gaskell would allow him certain leeway as editor to work with her text. However, Gaskell wasn't as pliable as expected. And her work was longer than expected.
The relationship between these two great authors suffered from this venture. Academic studies on this suggest that clear contract outlines at the outset might have helped avoid a lot of strife.

message 16: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie Flynn | 5 comments I agree with Everyman. I prefer to have a schedule so that I can discuss as time goes on and I can read other things. Also if I fall behind (heading to the great Mouse House in 10 days) I can catch up and discuss without spoiling the book.

message 17: by Bill (new)

Bill Kupersmith | 125 comments Hope this is the right place for this query, but I found Mr Hale's explanation to Margaret telling her why he was giving up his living very opaque. Did I miss something or is this information we shall find out later? If so, fine with me.

message 18: by Susan (new)

Susan Oleksiw | 119 comments I have a copy with notes that indicates that scholars have come to interpret Mr. Hale's doubts to relate to the Thirty-nine Articles in the Anglican Church that he would have to subscribe to. He refers to the 2,000 who were turned out in 1662 who could not accept the requirements of the Book of Common Prayer and others in more recent years who followed their doubts and left the Church. Mr. Hale is having an extreme crisis of loyalty to the Church, though not to his God.

message 19: by Bill (new)

Bill Kupersmith | 125 comments Thanks. I has expected that it was resubscribing, but I wondered if we knew what particular item he was having doubts about. Or if Mrs Gaskell just needed him to resign his living for the sake of the plot. (Something similar happens in Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield.)

message 20: by Susan (new)

Susan Oleksiw | 119 comments The Penguin Classics edition has some interesting notes on this. The annotator suggests that J.A. Froude was the model for Mr. Hale. Froude resigned his fellowship at Oxford and lived near Manchester. Another note points out that Dickens objected to this part of the story and wanted to cut it. Whatever the reason, Mr. Hale felt compelled to give up his position in the Anglican Church, and that got the family into the circumstances that make the novel what it is.

message 21: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 28 comments Gaskell intended to be vague about Mr Hale's precise objections, so as to avoid plunging the novel too far into religious controversy. A break from the church was a serious matter in this era, and even more so for a vicar whose livelihood and position in society relies on his choice.
The important thing is not what made him take this step, but that he felt compelled to follow his conscious and took a stand for individual freedom of thought. Even when it upended his fairly comfortable life.
As a Unitarian, Gaskell readily championed freedom from restrictive doctrine. Gaskell herself is a non-conformist. Her main characters will often defy the standards and norms of traditional society.
She wants her readers to see characters as individual human beings, despite their position or status. So, here is Mr Hale, stripped of his former position -- what are we to think of his character now?

message 22: by Bill (new)

Bill Kupersmith | 125 comments Thanks. It makes sense she would leave it up to the reader & not identify Hale as either High or Low Church.

message 23: by Helen (new)

Helen Jones One of my all time favourites! Enjoy everyone

message 24: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 219 comments Susan wrote: "I have a copy with notes that indicates that scholars have come to interpret Mr. Hale's doubts to relate to the Thirty-nine Articles in the Anglican Church that he would have to subscribe to. .."

FYI, here's a copy of the 39 Articles. I'm not positive it's the original 1662 text from the Book of Common Prayer; there was an updated 1801 version for the American Anglican congregation. But probably close enough.

I'm not sure that very many Episcopalians or Anglicans today strictly believe all 39 articles. Mr. Hale may just have been ahead of his times in an era that didn't accept deviations.

message 25: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) There are some in this group already who have expressed a preference for a schedule and/or sections or both. I find myself in the latter category. I cannot, however, be sure that I am able to be committed to this book, as I am falling behind in other reads and I have thrown in the towel in the reading of other novels already. I had to quit groups which I
HATE doing. Last summer had something to do with that as it was the final straw on the back of an already chronic illness. This is honestly not a pity-me-party, it is simply a fact.

The upshot of this is that I find it extremely difficult to make progress without a schedule or section by section discussions. My main difficulty is that I get confused with a loosy-goosy approach (which I wish that I didn't as I'm sure that it's more spontaneous and exciting!), nevertheless, there it is.
Just to suggest a spoiler/non-spoiler example:
Reader Ricky quotes the first line of a novel for discussion: It was one of those sombre, stormy, blustery days mirroring that relentless question: how many days do I have left?
Reader Rosie explodes with irritation: why, thank you SO much for revealing that it was a really stormy day!!

I hope that you can see my point, though I probably have no right to push this argument as I may find the day to be too blustery! I confess though that it's a book in which I've been interested for ages AND, joy of joys, I have an unsullied copy on the shelves.

message 26: by Simon (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 108 comments We could try a reading schedule and threads for multiple sections next month. Let's discuss that in the organization thread.

message 27: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Oops, I didn't know that there was an Organisation Thread. Sorry ...

message 28: by Simon (new)

Simon (sorcerer88) | 108 comments No problem!

message 29: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments Hilary wrote: "Oops, I didn't know that there was an Organisation Thread. Sorry ..."

I didn't either! My preference is to break down by sections (but not on a timeline) to avoid spoilers, but to be able to discuss in detail (including spoilers) of the sections I've read. Just personal preference though.

Thank you for the breakdown of Mr. Hale's issues with the church! That makes much more sense. And I'm glad Gaskell leaves it ambiguous... WHAT he's opposed to isn't as important as the development of his character, which is what makes the story interesting.

I think I missed in all this how old Margaret is? (view spoiler).

message 30: by Trudy (new)

Trudy Brasure | 28 comments Margaret is 18 in the opening chapter, but by the time of the riot in Milton a year has passed.

message 31: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments Ok, so about standard Jane Austen heroine age.

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