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Mary Barton (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 11 Dec 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford; Reissue edition (11 Dec. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199538352
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199538355
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1.8 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 216,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Product Description

Review

This is Elizabeth Gaskell at her best, and Shirley Foster's edition is both sagacious and formally accurate. The appendices are invaluable and the explanatory notes are relevant without being obtrusive. A must for readers of Mary Barton. (Dr. Antonio Ballesteros-González, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha)

Book Description

'Gaskell's shocking, moving and contemporary account of the corrosive effects of injustice and poverty' Sunday Telegraph --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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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 500 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 Poll H. on 8 Nov. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This novel is not for those without reading stamina and resilience yet it rewards those with both. It is a densely written work dealing with the trials of life in the industrial landscape of Manchester when to be a "have not" meant just that; the necessity to go without food, warmth, and any comfort when workers were laid off. Elizabeth Gaskell depicts a loving family wracked by the travails of daily poverty, whose humanity is tested to the limit. She has great sympathy for those whose lives are so hard and she depicts totally believable characters. She addresses issues still of concern to us today. But this is not a tract - we care about these people. Mary grows in moral strength in spite of her circumstances and Jem is a worthy hero. This is ultimately an engaging, very sad and illuminating read.
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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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By ADP on 13 Nov. 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
I have just re-read Mary Barton. Elizabeth Gaskell has an obvious sympathy for the industrial poor. In Esther we have a warning of what Mary Barton would have become had she not been more fortunate than her aunt. The story is well written and the meaning of any dialect words which are unfamiliar are easy to understand within the context they are placed. Mrs Gaskell writes very matter-of-factly of the conditions of the day, which make them more convincing than if they were sensationalised. I was not convinced that the elder Mr Carson would have had any sympathy for or understanding of the motives for the perpertrator of the crime against his son, but overall I enjoyed the book and will read more by Elizabeth Gaskell.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By esther Miles on 29 May 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is, in my opinion, the best Gaskell novel. Characters are beautifully formed, three dimensional and utterly human. Its is a gritty social commentary without feeling anything like a dull history lesson. The plot is skilful, relentless and always surprising. A really, really great read.
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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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