I bought this after seeing the musical version, which I enjoyed immensely, with its emotion and character and beauty. Sadly, the original novel contains these qualities only in spates, and is generally pretty boring and monotonous.
The characters themselves are hard to care about, as apart from John they have little depth and seem to merely represent characteristics Bragg wants to get across. The idea that Jackson is suddenly in love with Emily after a couple of uneventful visits to her house is absurd, as is the development that she two years later is suddenly in love with him when he returns from war. This is just one example of the shallow characterisation, leading to a lack of believability and thus a lack of empathy from the reader.
The book probably works best as an insight into late 19th century life for the rural working classes; I'm no expert on the period, but it seems well researched and certainly comes across as genuine. Sadly, this aspect of the writing style is its pinnacle, as otherwise its far too full of 'examination of feelings' type passages which last several pages, and summaries of what the characters are thinking which could easily have been articulated in dialogue and through their actions rather than being so explicitly described at great length at regular intervals.
The plot if also less than compelling, probably because their is never an incentive to turn the page - not a great deal is occurring, and much like the fells that Bragg so lovingly describes, you feel it will all be waiting for you when you go back to it at some indeterminable point in the future. Books with slow plots can be saved by compelling characters or clever dialogue; this work, sadly, contains neither. Not recommended.