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Paperback North and South (Penguin Popular Classics) Book

ISBN: 0140620192

ISBN13: 9780140620191

North and South (Penguin Popular Classics)

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Format: Paperback

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5 ratings

Surprisingly modern tale of class conflict, management theory, and of course, love

I read the book, like many other reviewers here, after I had watched the brilliant BBC miniseries starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe. I definitely agree with the comments of many reviewers here that you somehow seem to develop a finer appreciation of the nuances of both after doing that. A lot of reviewers have covered the ground admirably on the story itself, so I won't go into too much detail on that. In addition to the fine development of plot and characters alike, what I found refreshing about the novel were: a. Unlike a few other writers of her time, Elizabeth Gaskell focuses a lot more on the thought processes and feelings of the male characters in the novel. For example, you don't get to hear a lot of what Darcy or Edward Ferrars are thinking in Pride and Prejudice, or Sense and Sensibility, except almost tangentially. In sharp contrast, Mrs. Gaskell gives quite a detailed peep into what John Thornton and Richard Hale are thinking, throughout the novel. As someone who is always interested in the differences in thought processes between the sexes, I found this to be refreshingly different from other novels of the time. b. Being in business, it was quite a new experience to read about John Thornton's evolution first as a business owner and then as a "leader", to use that overused term of today. Mrs. Gaskell appears to have a remarkably sophisticated understanding of both management and labor issues. The examples that stand out in my mind - John Thornton's increasing interest in exploring a better construct for labor-management relations beyond the mere "cash nexus" (towards the end of the novel), and his practice of building what we would call a business case today, as he asks Nicholas Higgins to put some figures together for the new cafeteria. c. A valuable peep into the mores of the time - for example, despite being fond of Bessy Higgins, Margaret recoils in horror at the thought of visiting her after Bessy's death, a point glossed over in the BBC mini-series, - it gives you a rare insight into things like death and burial customs of the time,. I must agree with a few other reviewers that the last few chapters seem a little rushed, but from an overall perspective, it is hard to beat this novel for its pure wholesome enjoyment value - more serious and deep than a Pride and Prejudice, and still light enough for people like me who cannot take Thomas Hardy. A definite five stars!

Recommended, especially if you loved the movie

This is a must-read, particularly for anyone who has seen - and been captivated by - the BBC film version of Elizabeth Gaskell's very fine novel. Although the film is excellent and largely faithful to Gaskell's story, it cannot fully convey the depth of her characters. The author herself does this masterfully, painting rich word portraits of each figure through skillful use of dialogue and description. Another especially exquisite feature of this book is the way Gaskell weaves the relationship between Margaret Hale and John Thornton into the differences between cotton mill owners in the north of England and their workers. The author creates tension and passion in the coupling of Margaret and Thornton by immersing them in the conflict between labor and management, pitting Margaret's advocacy of the workers against Thornton's interests as a mill owner. In doing so, she offers valuable insights into the needs and concerns of both sides in this labor dispute in a way that speaks to present-day tensions between unions and companies. Gaskell does this by portraying Thornton as a mill owner who ultimately tries to balance his head for business with an expanding heart for his workers and Margaret as someone who comes to understand both sides in the conflict. Readers with a spiritual bent may appreciate, too, Gaskell's tasteful use of religious imagery and language, something the film barely touches on. This is especially apparent in the exchanges between Margaret and her dying friend, Bessy Higgins, who is obsessed with the biblical book of Revelation. Margaret, the daughter of a minister, relates beautifully to Bessy's concerns and Bible quotations, engaging and respecting her religious sensibilities, yet offering a sense of balance that is drawn from her own beliefs.

Far better the second time around!

It'd been a long time (a decade or so) since I read this Elizabeth Gaskell classic before I watched the BBC adaptation on DVD and loved it. Rereading this novel was the best decision I could have made because I hadn't appreciated it then the way I did now. North and South captures the social divide and how the manufacturing and trading industries were revolutionizing in the 1850s. Margaret Hale, the daughter of a respectable clergyman, and her family move from the south of England to the industrialized northern town of Milton after her father leaves the church because of his conscience. Margaret is appalled with Milton and the vulgar, uncouth ways of tradesmen and merchants, whom she also sees as uncivilized and cruel. However, will she change her mind after she meets and gets to know the dashing Mr. John Thornton? There are many twists throughout the novel. I was able to appreciate the romance and building of tension between Margaret and Mr. Thornton now, especially after having watched the BBC miniseries and the wonderful Richard Armitage playing Thornton. Right now, to me, there are four memorable classic literary heroes -- Mr. Darcy, Heathcliff, Mr. Rochester and now Mr. Thornton. He is gentler and not as brooding here as he is portrayed in the miniseries, but he is as compelling as I had remembered him. The last few pages are my favorite, especially this line: "While she sought for this paper, her very heart-pulse was arrested by the tone in which Mr. Thornton spoke. His voice was hoarse, and trembling with tender passion, as he said: `Margaret.' " What a romantic line and I wish it had been added to the miniseries. The ending at the train station in the miniseries is wonderful (if a bit anachronistic), but it would have been even better if the aforementioned line had been incorporated into the scene. All in all, this is one of my favorite Victorian classics. Elizabeth Gaskell isn't quite as known or as celebrated as Dickens or the Brontes, people who had been big friends of hers, according to her biography, but she was a gifted writer in her own right and her talent shows in this wonderful gem which I will reread again in the not-so-distant future.

One of the greatest and most underrated Victorian novels

I fell in love with this marvellous novel and it's main protagonists, Margaret Hale & John Thornton, when I first read it some five years ago. I remember when I was reading the chapters describing the riot at Thornton's mill while on the way home from work on the train, I was so caught up with the story that I nearly missed my stop.One of the things that particularly impresses me about "North and South" is that Elizabeth Gaskell actually concentrates as much, if not more, on the principal male character's (John Thornton's) sexual and romantic desires and inner life rather than on the main female character (Margaret Hale). This is somewhat unusual to find in a book by female writer of the Victorian era. I feel that it makes the character of John Thornton one of the most interesting and attractive in 19th century literature.His passionate love and desire for Margaret border on the obsessive at times. However, Elizabeth Gaskell details his torturous struggles with his emotions in such a empathethic way that you feel immensely drawn to Thornton from the first time you meet him. The scenes where Margaret rebuffs his attempts at a marriage proposal and the aftermath where he dazedly goes off into the countryside to calm down are vividly written.I thoroughly disagree with some of the other reviewer's comments below, especially the person on 17 March 2003 who cannot even get the author's name right. It makes you wonder if they have read the same book as I did. I have no respect for people who impose inappropriate and modern notions on a work from this era and give their opinions, with such a sneering tone, in a trite and dismissive critique.I know that there are many "North and South" fans out there who, like me, can appreciate the novel for what it is, not what they think it should be.It is simply a beautifully written, engaging and satisfying book.

North and South (by Elizabeth Gaskell)

This is one of the best books I've ever read. It should be known that Elizabeth Gaskell was a protege of Charles Dickens. This book is a book written by a woman who was ahead of her times. The heroine is such a heroic and exciting character, while at the same time kind and benevolent. The plot is fast moving and exhilarating. I find this a treasure in English Literature...a must for the serious reader ...and especially women. Unfortunately Miss Gaskell died before she reached the level of fame she so deserved. This book was recommended to me by a professor of English Literary Philosophy at Univ. of So. Cal. What a find!
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