Book blog

1000 before 30 #11: North and South – by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Two worlds collide as a  factory owner and a vicar’s daughter go head-to-head in North and South.

Austen walked a fine line with difficult characters within Pride and Predjudice. Gaskell flattens that line with the force of a steamrolling engine.

The two main characters, self-made rich man and factory worker Mr Thornton and detached young southern woman Margaret Hale, find themselves in the same social circles when Hale’s family move to the northern town of Milton.

Both characters, who are rather arrogant and at times unlikeable, are instantly on the path from loathing to love — only it takes several deaths, disasters and a factory workers’ revolution to make it happen.

Filled with dramatic flare, the narrative deals with society and people’s roles in it, the industrial revolution and the wage issues of the era, and the time-honoured mistunderstandings between those from the North and those from the South.

It’s a classic for a reason, although it spends most of its time building up to a peak moment and then tying up loose ends.

Although overall the story is enjoyable, I didn’t feel enthusiasm for any of the characters, whose lives were never truly that affected by the plight, only secondary, of the families who struggled through the factory fights.

This review is part of the 1000 books before 30 challenge. Read more about it here.

Featured image: Creative commons photo courtesy of freeparking

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