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Mary Barton (Everyman's library : [Fiction]) Unknown Binding – 1967


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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton (1967)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0007J6PEO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

More About the Author

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born in London in 1810, but she spent her formative years in Cheshire, Stratford-upon-Avon and the north of England. In 1832 she married the Reverend William Gaskell, who became well known as the minister of the Unitarian Chapel in Manchester's Cross Street. As well as leading a busy domestic life as minister's wife and mother of four daughters, she worked among the poor, traveled frequently and wrote. Mary Barton (1848) was her first success.

Two years later she began writing for Dickens's magazine, Household Words, to which she contributed fiction for the next thirteen years, notably a further industrial novel, North and South (1855). In 1850 she met and secured the friendship of Charlotte Brontë. After Charlotte's death in March 1855, Patrick Brontë chose his daughter's friend and fellow-novelist to write The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857), a probing and sympathetic account, that has attained classic stature.

Elizabeth Gaskell's position as a clergyman's wife and as a successful writer introduced her to a wide circle of friends, both from the professional world of Manchester and from the larger literary world. Her output was substantial and completely professional. Dickens discovered her resilient strength of character when trying to impose his views on her as editor of Household Words. She proved that she was not to be bullied, even by such a strong-willed man.

Her later works, Sylvia's Lovers (1863), Cousin Phillis (1864) and Wives and Daughters (1866) reveal that she was continuing to develop her writing in new literary directions. Elizabeth Gaskell died suddenly in November 1865.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By María José García Ferrer on 2 April 2008
Format: Paperback
I approached my first Gaskell novel with a touch of apprehension and I have to admit I didn't enjoy the first few pages, but after a while I was hooked.
Even if the plot is improbable at times, the story is entertaining and the gallery of characters presented is memorable. The description of an industrial city in the 19th century is deeply moving. All in all, a great achievement. A must read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By hillbank68 TOP 100 REVIEWER on 14 April 2010
Format: Paperback
Elizabeth Gaskell was most famous for 'Cranford' and, I suppose, after the excellent BBC TV adaptation, also 'North and South'. This is an earlier book and shows signs of inexperience and even naivete in the narration, but it carries the reader forward by the power of a compelling story and, even more, the moral conviction that lies behind Mrs. Gaskell's concern for the working people in the book and the hard, uncertain lives they lead, struggling with poverty, disease and uncertain employment in Industrial Revolution Manchester. Her compassion and her Christian conscience are everywhere apparent in the tale of Mary, torn between her love for Jem Wilson and her anxiety for her brooding, damaged father. Relations between workers and employers are central in the book, but the author does not see things in simple black and white, them and us terms, though she is very critical of the effects of the employers' decisions. Mr. Carson, the millowner, himself a man who has achieved financial power by hard graft, is not a one-dimensional figure, and his behaviour towards the end shows a depth of human decency which enhances the book. It's a dark tale, with a murder at its centre, and the courageous journey Mary makes to Liverpool to find a key witness for the trial makes compelling reading. Characterisation can be thin (though Job Legh, the old self-taught naturalist, is interesting) and Mrs. Gaskell has a tendency to overwrite in places, but this is still an important and impressive book, and it repays the reader many times over.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By mrs_t on 2 Aug 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mary Barton is one of those books that sometimes makes for uncomfortable reading, because it is so sad and the era so bleak...however...it is also heart warming, full of characters that you truly get to know and love and necessary as an evocative history of that period. I would totally recommend it, however , not as a holiday book - it's heavy and needs to be viewed as such or it'll really get to you! superb
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By D. Chambers on 12 Jun 2001
Format: Paperback
Gaskell`s first novel "Mary Barton" (1848) is a tragedy set in nineteenth century Manchester. The plot revolves around the eponymous heroine, and her choice of lover, on one hand ,wealthy Henry Carson, and on the other, a working- class family friend,Jem Wilson.The central theme,however, is the yawning chasm between the lifestyle of the prosperous, and that of the poverty-stricken.Gaskell paints a very bleak picture of death,endemic disease and misery, and those familiar with Engel`s "Condition of the Working Class in England" will be treading a familiar path.Allied to social and political comment, elements which lead to a virtual banning of the book upon publication,there is the melodrama of the Victorian romantic novel in all its glory, and some genuinely moving moments, handled with great skill and sensitivity.Ultimately a message of "the masters suffer as well" comes through but Mary Barton has many miles of misery to walk through before she can walk out into the sunshine.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By shell on 10 April 2010
Format: Paperback
i found this one of the best gaskells i have read. it had everything from love, murder, revenge, misery and joy, i dont know what more you would want from a book? i cant believe there hasnt been an adaptation of this and hope that happens soon. for anyone who loves gaskells cranford, this book is a bit grittier and darker but i highly recommend it
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. S. W. Holland on 8 Oct 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a classic story, but is also very useful for accurate historical detail of life in Manchester in the 1840's. The author was the wife of the secretary of the Manchester Domestic Missionary society.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ms. A. L. Smith on 10 Oct 2006
Format: Paperback
having been to see the play Mary Barton i felt able to tackle this book, its pretty heavy going as the speech is written in old manchester dialect even though i'm from manchester it slows you down a bit but its well worth it as it takes you back to a time when the poor were really poor and gives you an insight into times gone by before benifits and the nhs and makes you realise how lucky we are, saying this language is interesting , not sure if i would have still enjoyed it if i'd read it without having knowledge of the story before hand, but if you are used to reading this type of litrature i'm sure you will be fine, the story centres around a young woman and her life in desprate times and follows her and her family and friends, the detailed discription in this book takes you back to this era and you can easily see in your mind the hardships endured by the poor living amongst the rich mill owners in this big city, i wouldn't say its a quick easy read but i definatly enjoyed it and its given me the confidence to read more of the same types of books
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A. Barnett on 10 Dec 2008
Format: Paperback
Mary Barton is ahead of it's time. It is not your typical classic, so even if you're not a fan of Jane Austen give it a go!

I found myself unable to put this down and I was literally holding my breath whilst reading the final chapters!

Mary is a feisty, young girl, who hasn't realised that her consequences have actions and that the people she loves may not be who she thought, or rather hoped, they were.

The storyline is rather dark as it is focused around a murder, but it deals with the subject matter fantastically and has lighter, heart-lifting moments.

Elizabeth Gaskell is excellent at creating a beautiful, but hard-hitting romantic story. I think she is a fantastic writer and would thoroughly recommend 'Wives and Daughters' and 'North and South'.
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