Book Review: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Hello, and Happy Friday!  I am super pumped about the holiday weekend, mostly because fireworks are on my list of favorite things and I just like summer holidays.   Anyway, I am here today to talk about a book I actually read in May, and am finally getting around to reviewing.  I picked up North and South because I've heard it praised highly and because the BBC adaptation is just my favorite period drama ever.  While I can't say that I prefer the book over the show, I did enjoy it, despite some minor issues.  But let's get to the review.

Title: North and South

Author: Elizabeth Gaskell

Publisher/Price: Penguin Classics / $8.40 here

Type: Fiction

Genre: Classic, Romance

Number of pages: 560

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Overview: When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the North of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South Gaskell skilfully fused individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale created one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.  (via Amazon)

My thoughts: First I want to say that two things kind of surprised me about the book.  I will probably do some comparing book and show in this review, as a disclaimer.  I liked Mr. Thornton's character in the book slightly more than in the show.  I don't know why, but perhaps it is because the book fleshed him out a little more.  In the show, you never see anything from his perspective or spend time in his head, whereas the book spends time on both sides of the main characters' perspective.  So I enjoyed that quite a bit.  However, I didn't absolutely love Margaret's character like I was hoping to.  On the back of the book it says something like she is one of the most original characters in this kind of literature, which made me want to like her a lot, but I have to say, I loved how she was portrayed in the show much more than in the book.  There were times when I really enjoyed her character, and then other times when I thought she was overly emotional and fragile.  Margaret was portrayed as a very strong character in the show, and while I had hoped the same would be true of her in the book, she often seemed unrelated to her character in the show.  In the story, however, Margaret is the strongest character in the Hale family, which came through even stronger in the book.  And of course, I realize that the book came first and thus the show deviated from the book, but I guess I just enjoyed the show more.  

One other thing that disappointed me about the book was the ending.  I absolutely love the ending of the BBC show, and the one in the book fell slightly flat for me, just because I was envisioning that awesome scene at the train station.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the ending, mostly because it reminded me of the one in the show.  Also, that kiss at the end of the show has to be the best one in TV history. Absolutely.

One thing I did enjoy more about the book than the show was the portion in the beginning that was set in the Hale's first home in the South.  I enjoyed getting a peek into the life they always talked about with such fondness throughout the story.  Also, Margaret's mother was so annoying.  I never liked her character in the show at all, but I disliked her even more in the book.  She actually disliked both of their homes: Helston and Milton, and I got so sick of her complaints.  Ugh.  

Let's talk about the writing for a minute.  I liked the writing style, but not as much as I love the style of Jane Austen.  Sometimes, the sentences became slightly hard to follow, but I really enjoy the Victorian/Regency era writing, and so I still enjoyed it. 

Also, despite being over 500 pages long, this book was a fairly quick read for me.  I didn't have to force-read it, it was easy to get through, and I think the anticipation of the ending I knew was coming kept me reading.  I would encourage you to pick this up if you want to get into classics but are intimidated by the length of some of them.  This one is substantial, but a fast read.

Overall, this book was slightly disappointing when compared to the show, which I absolutely adore, but I still enjoyed it, simply because it allowed me to replay it in my head.  I didn't dislike it, but I didn't totally love it either, and I could see myself rereading it in the future.  I would recommend the book if you enjoyed the show, and if you love the book, I would highly recommend that you watch the show, especially if you wish Margaret Hale was a stronger character.  

And those are my thoughts on North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell!  I would recommend it to any fan of classics or lover of the BBC adaptation.  Not my favorite book ever, but also not a book I dislike.  Thanks so much for reading!  xo, Ella


July 2015 TBR

I have a ridiculously ambitious TBR for July, so I'm probably not going to get to all of the books I plan to talk about today, but we shall see.  If you saw my post a few weeks ago, you will know that I am planning to read a few Shakespeare plays this month.  I have no idea how those will go – they may take me forever, or go pretty fast.  Anyway, let's get this started or we'll be here all day.
First up, let's talk about the books I'm currently reading.  I just read the first book in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, The Mysterious Howling, which I briefly talked about in my wrap-up post for June at the beginning of this week.  I am now on to the second book in the series, which I picked up at the same time as the first, and I'm currently about 60 pages into this one.  I think I'll probably take a break after this book, unless it ends up being amazing.  Really enjoyable series so far, but it's not like my favorite thing ever.

The second book I'm currently re-reading is Little Women.  I haven't mentioned it on here yet, but I am participating in a summer book bingo this year, which is basically a thing where you have a bingo card and each square is a prompt for a book you need to read.  It is hosted by the people behind the Books on the Nightstand Podcast, and you can find out more here and download your bingo card here.  For example a few of the prompts on mine are: "Longer than 500 pages," "Cozy Mystery," "Sci-Fi," "Was Turned into a Movie/Show," "St in Europe," "YA Novel," "Found in Used Bookstore, " etc.  One of my prompts was to read a book I loved as a child.  Now I wouldn't say I am completely out of my childhood yet, though I am closer to adulthood than my childhood, but the obvious choice for this one was Little Women.  This is a book I love more everytime I read it, so I think it's more accurately a book I loved like, forever.  I am about 60 pages into it, and it's just so freaking good.  I love it so much and I am just feeling all the feels and nostalgia.   

And of course, I am still plugging away at War & Peace, which I will be reading for the rest of the year, so I decided to drop the book cover from my monthly TBR posts.  Anyway, still loving it. 

Also, this month, as previously mentioned, I will be reading four Shakespearean plays: Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, and Much Ado About Nothing.  I am hoping to enjoy these quite a bit and also hoping that they don't take me all month to read.  

Next up, for the book bingo again, I am supposed to read a love story or romance, and because I enjoyed the last Jane Austen I read (Persuasion), I picked up Sense & Sensibility.  I'm looking forward to it a lot.  

If you remember my book haul from a couple months ago, this book will look familiar.  Probably due to the nature of it (a romance) and the bright cover, I decided to save it for the summer.  And hopefully I'll be able to read it stretched out at the lake.  

I also want to try and get to Hard Times this month.  I have a light case of Charles Dickens intimidation, and as this one is pretty short, I'm gonna have a go at it.  This one is fairly low on my priority list, but hopefully I'll get around to reading it. 
I also have some books from the library I'd like to get to this month.  The first one is The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood.  I really like the Odyssey and The Illiad, so I'm pretty excited about this.  If I enjoy it, I'll pick up more Atwood in the future. 

And then, I have a book about grammar, which, you should know by now, is like my favorite thing to read about.  Inside the cover, there was a blurb that compared this book to Eats, Shoots, & Leaves by Lynne Truss (my favorite book on grammar EVER), and I needed no further motivation.  I am so so so looking forward to this.  

Finally, Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown.  I have heard several people mention this book now: Rebecca Schinsky and Liberty Hardy on the "All the Books!" podcast and Rincey from RinceyReads on YouTube.  All of them gave it high recommendations, and it's about a (female!) pirate captain and a kidnapped chef and what could possibly sound better?  Besides, I don't often read stuff purely for fun, and this will totally be that.  Besides, I kind of have a thing for pirate stories.  Pirates intrigue me.  
Lastly, I want to get to a couple nonfiction books this month.  In August, I am going to Colorado for two weeks for a student worldview/leadership conference/camp thing, and I know a lot of current-event stuff will be discussed, so I'd kind of like to get caught up with my reading to be prepared for all that.  I am already planning the books I want to take on the flight, too, because of course, that's what you do.  I've had these books for a while, and they are high on my priority list for this month. 

And those are all the books!  It's a way ambitious list, but hopefully I can knock out a big chunk of it.  I have so many reviews to catch up on from May/June, so watch out for a review coming later this week.  Thanks for reading!  xo, Ella