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

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