I thought it would be fitting to start off Literary Cafe's blog reviews with a favorite classic of mine that I have enjoyed time and time again. The multi-layered plotline and political, as well as societal, elements, place this novel far ahead of its time. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.
Let's start with an overview, and then go into a few details:
"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 the 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, Elizabeth Gaskell skillfully fuses individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale creates one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature."
One of the reasons I particularly enjoy this classic is because of the eloquence and simplicity of the writing itself. While many other authors of this era were extremely wordy and confusing, Gaskell is clear and precise, while painting a beautiful setting and endearing characters. The story focuses on Margaret Hale and John Thornton.
Being 521 pages long, North and South is packed full of valuable lessons and Biblical truths. Here are a two you'll find scattered throughout:
"Those who are happy and successful themselves are too apt to make light of the misfortunes of others."
In correspondence to this, Hebrews 13:16 reminds: "Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God."
“As she realized what might have been, she grew to be thankful for what was.”
All throughout the book of James we are encouraged to bless God and be thankful for our trials, and this is unquestionably reflected in North and South.
I'd like to, however, present a single critique. The last few chapters as a whole are somewhat feministic in their views and presentation. I won't go on about why I personally have chosen to believe that feminism is wrong, just be made aware that this book does incorporate very minor feminism, which pushed the social elements of Victorian England to expand.
Genre: Classics, Fiction, Romance, Historical Fiction, 19th Century Fiction
Pages: 521 (It seems long, but I finished it in about 2 days)
Rating(1-5): 5 stars
Content (1-10): 9 (For mild romance. Other than that there's nothing concerning. No profanity or adult content)
Age Level: 13+ (Although I think the older you are the more you understand and appreciate the intricacies and depth of the society)
Beware, however, that this piece was written for a very specific audience, those who enjoy classical romances. If you generally do not, I wouldn't recommend trying this. But, per contra, if you enjoy authors such as Jane Austin, Charlotte/Emily Bronte, or F. Scott, Fitzgerald, you will most likely fall in love with not only North and South, but all of the books by Elizabeth Gaskell.
You can buy the book here at ebay for $10 plus free shipping! (affiliate link)
Thanks! If you have any questions feel free to comment below!