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Ruth (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell , Angus Easson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
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Book Description

31 July 1997 Penguin Classics
Ruth Hilton is an orphaned young seamstress who catches the eye of a gentleman, Henry Bellingham, who is captivated by her simplicity and beauty. When she loses her job and home, he offers her comfort and shelter, only to cruelly desert her soon after. Nearly dead with grief and shame, Ruth is offered the chance of a new life among people who give her love and respect, even though they are at first unaware of her secret - an illegitimate child. When Henry enters her life again, however, Ruth must make the impossible choice between social acceptance and personal pride. In writing Ruth, Elizabeth Gaskell daringly confronted prevailing views about sin and illegitimacy with her compassionate and honest portrait of a 'fallen woman'.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (31 July 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140434305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140434309
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.8 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 139,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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


"A generally good teaching edition at a reasonable price."--Christopher C. Dahl, University of Michigan, Dearborn"Essential that this remain in print for Victorian culture studies."--Linda Shires, Syracuse University"I'm happy that you have made Ruth affordable for classroom use. Ruth illuminates many of the conflicts over 'the fallen woman' as Christian martyr or feminist hero seen in more famous Victorian novels such as Tess and The Scarlet Letter. Your edition is well-edited and readably printed."--Dr. Jeanette Shumaker, San Diego State University (Imperial Valley Branch)"OUP is the only publisher of this in paperback. It's a significant book for any Victorian literature course and particularly for one on Victorian women."--Eleanor McNees, University of Denver --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

¿She had no penitence, no consciousness of error or offence; no knowledge of any one circumstance but that he was gone.¿ --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
There is an assize-town in one of the eastern counties which was much distinguished by the Tudor sovereigns, and, in consequence of their favour and protection, attained a degree of importance that surprises the modern traveller. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
91 of 93 people found the following review helpful
It's a shame that my review is the first one. Ruth is a classic, a must-read. Mrs. Gaskell deals in her novel with very serious problem of unmarried motherhood and double standards of judging men and women behavior. Why a wealthy young man who seduced and deserted a poor motherless girl is not to be blamed and not to pay for his guilt? And why a girl who has been too young, too innocent and too ignorant in sexual affairs is to suffer and to be an outcast in society? The heroine leads a virtuous life and does a lot of good after her so-called fall. Nevertheless the end of the book is tragic... Some critics find inconsistencies and exaggerations in the story. May be they are right. The author couldn't always choose the best way of presenting the heroine and circumstances. (Well, Hardy's more famous story of Tess of the DÚrbervilles is not also without faults.) Just imagine difficulties of writing of such book in Victorian society. Innocent as it is, Ruth was a scandal and was considered to be an improper reading for young people. Nowadays I would recommend the novel to any reader. It is interesting, intriguing, full of poetical nature descriptions and typical rural characters, the problem is sharp and up-to-day. Modern girls are neither naive nor ignorant. However... are they really wise in love affaires? Aren't they in danger of becoming voluntary victims of charming but spoiled young men? Read the book and judge for yourself.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Underrated Classic 31 Aug 2005
I came to this novel having just read North and South. As with North and South it takes time for Elizabeth Gaskell to set the scene and develop the central characters. But it is worth sticking with. The last 100 pages will take you on an emotional roller coaster. The central character's inherent goodness and selflessness only serves to highlight the hypocracy of those who claim to be the moral guardians of society. The central character feels so real and you cannot fail to be deeply affected by reading this novel.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ruthful 13 Mar 2012
This moral tale is told well and truly. There are the usual Victorian coincidences to move the plot along, although none that seem forced or unlikely. The backdrop of the tension between Anglicans and Dissenters, Whigs and Tories, rich and poor, show the tribalism that often causes misunderstanding and conflict, and makes humans treat individuals poorly in order to be admired by, or to further the perceived interests of, some group. The story is remarkable in that none of the characters is completely good or completely bad. Even the characterizations of minor characters hint at a full humanity. The author's motif that individual character and circumstances are so interwoven in determining what kind of person will result; and that even an admirable characteristic may be the cause of human flaw if it is nurtured in the wrong circumstances. For example, Ruth's pliable nature results in an admirable ability to learn her duty when she lives with the good influence of the Bensons, where that same pliancy had earlier caused her downfall by the seducing Bellingham. Interestingly enough, it is Jemima who is able to recognize the truth that changed circumstances could have resulted in a changed character, in regard to Ruth, and also in regard to herself. Jemima is able to see the good in Ruth that contrasts so much with her outward sins, as well as her own inward evil despite her outward virtue.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping 3 Jan 2012
Having previously studied Elizabeth Gaskell's 'Mary Barton' and not enjoyed it, i approached this novel with a pessimistic view. However, I was surprised to find it is an amazing book and draws you in to the story. It was very readable and fast paced. The edition itself has a short introduction but the explanatory notes make up for this. A definite must have for any book collection, just keep the tissues ready!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I can't put this book down 29 Aug 2010
I can't stop reading this book but don't want to finish it because I am right there with Ruth and the other wonderful characters. I started reading Elizabeth Gaskell after watching Cranford on TV and have since enjoyed several of her books - Ruth being the latest. 'Enjoyed' may not be quite the right word as some of the subject matter is harrowing at times and stirs the emotions no end. Not as dire as Mary Barton but real social history in the way that times have changed re the treatment of unmarried mothers and their children - all human life is there. I particularly chose this edition as I find the notes very helpful but recommend that you read the introduction AFTER reading the book when it will make more sense and not spoil the story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An understimated read 28 Jun 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Not many people have heard of this book, but it ought to be up there with 'Jane Eyre' and 'Far from the madding crowd' etc. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading the classics. It is refreshing to read an unknown story, rather than going over the same old 'Sense and Sensibility' etc.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell 2 Mar 2010
By Mr
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought as a result of our Book Club, it was a revelation. Not having read a Victorian novel since school (when I hated them) I discovered not only an excellent writer but an excellent story teller. It gripped me to the end.
My only reservation is that the 'introduction' was in fact an analysis which should not be read before the book. It was also dry, academic and rather pompous, as were the notes, most of which I could have done without. I believe there is another edtion with a much better analysis.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Exce llent!
Published 8 days ago by RUTH PAULINE STEER
1.0 out of 5 stars Too slow
lost interest around the middle. took too long to get to the point. Have enjoyed most other free kindle classic
Published 3 months ago by Norma Miklinski
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant.
I loved this book. The story is age-old but, in this instance, beautifully written and told, with clever observation of - and sensitive portrayal of - human foibles.
Published 5 months ago by G M Cope
4.0 out of 5 stars Good story well told
If you enjoy th old style flowery descriptive writing or not the story is captivating. The world has changed it's attitudes to single mothers which is a good thing. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Karen watts
5.0 out of 5 stars storage boxes
These are exactly what I wanted. I make cards and these are ideal for keeping my card and paper in. Thank you.
Published 6 months ago by fizz
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book
I love anything Mrs Gaskell wrote. This is one of her best & is free on Kindle - one of my fave things about Kindle is all the free classics!
Published 8 months ago by Kelly A19
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but too sad for me.
I'm sure this is a good book but after a few chapters I found the story was heading so much for disaster that I didn't want to continue on the downward spiral of despair.
Published 9 months ago by Jackie M
3.0 out of 5 stars a rare insight
So few books of this era refrain from dealing with illegitimacy. Elizabeth Gaskell always shows us a more realistic side of a story.
Published 9 months ago by Helen Hoad
2.0 out of 5 stars Impenetrable language
Impenetrable language and soooo long drawn out. So much description which used words I couldn't find in the oldest dictionary.
Published 10 months ago by Susan Baldwin
4.0 out of 5 stars Poignant story of a vulnerable maiden.
Although this novel tends to preach ( to our modern ears) and has a religious theme, it is nevertheless a well written involving story and one sympathises with the heroine.
Published 11 months ago by Solitude
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