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on 9 May 2010
Twice, while reading Elizabeth Gaskell's "North and South" I was asked if it was about the American Civil War, which was somewhat surprising as I am currently in Australia. Of course, the immediate response was that no, it is not about the American Civil War, but it did get me to notice that there are certainly some similarities in terms of the societal differences between the North and South in the U.S. and that in Gaskell's England of the 1850's. In both you have an industrial North and an agrarian South, and in both you have the creation of a new class structure in the North which isn't recognized by the older structure in the South. The comparison stops quickly though once one brings in larger issues like the institution of slavery and the more generalized issue of state's rights.

"North and South" was originally published as a serial between September of 1854 and January of 1855 in the magazine "Household Words" which was edited by Charles Dickens. As Patricia Ingham's introduction in the Penguin Classics edition informs us, Elizabeth Gaskell had originally titled the story "Margaret Hale" after the main character, but Charles Dickens convinced her to use a title that captured the larger story, though who came up with the final title "North and South" is unknown. Margaret Hale is the daughter of a minister, who decides that he needs to leave the Church of England because of a difference in views between himself and the Church. As a result, he needs to move his family (consisting of himself, his frail wife, and Margaret, along with their faithful servant Dixon) to the industrial northern community of Milton (a fictional town based on Manchester).

The Hale's represent the South, and the old class system, and when they move north they interact with John Thorton's family, (John Thorton - the owner of a Mill, his mother, and his sister Fanny) who are the wealthy merchants, and they also interact with Nicholas Higgins' family (Nicholas Higgins - a mill worker, and his daughter Bessy who is sick from an illness from working in the mills). It is here where we run into the differences in ideas of class between the North and the South. The story is mostly told from the perspective of Margaret, but it does on occasion switch to another character. It is interesting to follow Margaret's social journey as she learns about her new home, and in how it changes her perspective on the home she used to know.

It is a rich story as well, filled with subplots and stories, such as the story of Elizabeth's brother Frederick who is wanted for Mutiny, and her cousin Edith who is getting married at the start of the book. There is also the illness and death of several characters during the course of the book. One also sees growth in many of the characters. John Thorton and Nicholas Higgins both grow from their interaction with Margaret. As a result, this isn't so much a clash of the cultures of North and South as much as it is a merging and understanding between the two. The Penguin Classics edition is up to their usual standards, thanks to a very good introduction and thorough text notes by Patricia Ingham.
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on 14 February 2017
I was so happy to have this book over and done with. There's nothing quite like sitting there and reading a book that drags on and on and you just want it to end! This isn't the worst book I've ever read, but when stuck with something that bored me so bad for so long . . .

This is one of my five special challenge books for the year, which is why I didn't want to give it up. I also watched the movie and loved that. So I really did go into this predisposed to like it. As in a lot of cases, the book was nothing like the movie. In an unusual twist, I'll say for only the second time in my life that the movie was better than the book.

The scenes are different, the conversations, the personalities in a lot of cases, the chain of events, etc. If I had to go every point that was different, I'd be here all day. But I'm judging the book, not the movie, so I'm not going to be posting pictures from the movie or let that tint my judgement.

The plot is dull, the characters are dull, the writing style was atrocious and made me feel like I was swimming through a sea of molasses with the only enticement to reach the other side being that I could leave.

The Hale's are an annoying family. The father is a weak-willed, selfish, lousy father/husband. He uproots his family without even asking for their opinions, waits as long as can be to tell them, then tells his daughter so she can tell the mother because he wants to put that unpleasant task on her because he's too cowardly to do it. He gave them hardly any time to reconcile to the idea or to plan and he didn't plan at all so the whole moving out was chaos.

Then he moves them to a place that's the exact opposite of where they lived so that he won't ever be reminded of their home, not even considering that maybe his wife and daughter would like a place that was like home.

The mother does nothing but mope and whine and ends up sick. The father continues to be oblivious and leave any unpleasantness up to Margaret. The mother spends most of the book cooped up in the house as an invalid imposing on everyone around her. She even throws this major hissy fit and cries like a spoiled child to get her way at one point. She guilts Margaret into writing to her brother despite it being dangerous for him to return. Not only is her manipulation of Margaret disgusting, but her lack of concern over the death sentence her son faces if he returns sealed her in my mind as a horrid person.

Dixon was the nosiest busybody who was way to uppity for her own good and I believe her friendship with Mrs. Hale did more harm than good in concerns to Mrs. Hale's relationships with her daughter and husband and her own petulant attitude.

Margaret was the most emotionless, doormat of a character you could ever hope to meet. She's snobby and aloof but we must always talk about her like she's this angel who's presiding over everything. She never does anything wrong and supposedly the fact she's such a snob who barely condescends to speak or look at people makes her desirable as a fine lady.

Thornton is the only interesting character of the lot. He was actually a character I could relate with. He had a personality, he had good and bad points, he treated people well, had a practical head on his shoulders, and was probably the only reason I could continue.

The romance is one-sided with Thornton being smacked over Margaret. The ending was unsatisfactory as I hoped that maybe we'd see a shift in Margaret's thoughts towards him as being someone she loved and then maybe some romance. Instead it's more like Thornton asks again and she reluctantly says okay, maybe we can have something.

I don't understand why he liked her.

I stopped reading at 35% percent to read Oliver Twist and after getting sucked into that, I was again faced with picking this back up and realized just how badly I didn't want to. I knew I wasn't enjoying it before that point, but only when you get to the point of not wanting to pick a book back up do you sometimes realize how much you're dreading it. I had gone too far to quit, especially because it's one of my special challenge books, but also not so far as to feel near the end. I think I read 5 other books before I hit the end of this nightmare as I had to keep switching to something else out of sheer boredom.

I'll never read another Gaskell book. If nothing else the droning, monotonous writing style is to be avoided at all costs. I couldn't face that again, not even if there was a decent plot with better characters.

Stick to the movie!!! SO MUCH BETTER! The setting and names of characters are about all that's the same. Scenes cut, scenes added, new dialogue, characters personalities are changed, etc.
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on 10 May 2015
This is where the reviewer needs two different star ratings, one for the author and one for the eBook. I would have given the author 4 stars and the eBook 2 stars, so I have averaged out at 3 stars.

This love story is set during the industrial revolution in England. It tells of a young woman who was born and bred in the south (the New Forest and London) and moves north with her parents to the fictional industrial town of Milton. To say what happens to the protagonists would be to spoil your enjoyment, but the style is highly charged throughout, unreservedly emotional and bordering on the melodramatic. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it and was always keen to pursue the next phase of the plot.

Elizabeth Gaskell's style has some irritating features. Each chapter is headed by a quotation. I can not understand the purpose of this. If it gives away what is about to happen, it should be avoided, and if it does not, it seems a waste of time. Perhaps the literary convention of the period was to show off in this way, but I recommend skipping over the quotations and just reading the main text.

There are a few sections of text that are not in English. Gaskell assumes that the reader is sufficiently well educated to be able to translate these - I was not. There are no footnotes or editorial additions to provide the missing translation, so whatever they meant was completely lost on me.

Sometimes the author contrives a conversation between two or more of the characters in which she seems to be presenting her own theories on the advantages and disadvantages of industrialised manufacturing. The dialogue does not ring true in the mouths of the people involved and certainly does not advance the action of the story.

Furthermore, from time to time, the author does not make it clear who is speaking, so the reader has to carry on regardless, hoping to pick up a contextual clue, or has to backtrack to try and work it out.

I do not know if the novel was incomplete, but the ending is extremely abrupt and rather unsatisfactory in my opinion.

The eBook is not the worst I have encountered but it comes close. I suppose it is unfair to criticise a book that costs nothing, but I found 57 proof reading errors and there were more that I did not bother with. The most annoying problem is caused by using single quote to delimit speech and then omitting the opening or the closing single quote. This means that the reader can not always tell when a character has started speaking or stopped speaking.

I recommend this book to anybody who enjoys a good romance with serious undertones, and is interested in the social conventions and attitudes of the time. However, you might find it less frustrating to spend more money on a better edited eBook.
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on 19 September 2010
A social narrative about the merits of industrialisation mixed in with an unlikely love story. The ingredients are there but the plot and characters are a bit wonky and the writing isn't good enough to paper over those cracks.

This work has unquestionably suffered from being conceived for serialistaion by Charles Dickens in his periodical `Household Words' between 1854 - 1855. It has a chopped and compressed feeling that weakens the storyline and lessens the reader's interest in the characters. Trails are laid, such as Henry Lennox's love interest in the hero - Margret Hale, that don't lead anywhere; characters are introduced late in the novel who become important to its development, like Mr Bell and other characters, like Margaret's brother Frederick look like they should be important to the plot, and take up a lot of time, but don't really matter. All in all it's a bit of a mess.

At the heart of the book however is an unlikely love story between Margaret - southern born daughter of an Anglican vicar - and John Thornton - Northern born self made man. Their story is used as the prop to investigate, not unsympathetically, the social and economic issues surrounding the rise of manufacturing when Margaret and her family are forced by circumstances to move north.

The love story is well done with Margaret and John's characters reflecting their background. She is unbelievably haughty and standoffish, which passes for good manners in her world. He is a proud and straightforward innocent. They are an odd couple whose romance appears to have no chance and Gaskell nicely captures the various awkward moments they have together and the many bumps in love's road.

Around this central story there is a strike at the factory and Margaret befriends a family of workers. Conversations with John Thornton and the workers are used to discuss labour relations, economics and the relative merits of agricultural and industrial work. It's a bit heavy handed when compared to, say, Dicken's own Hard Times which covers the same territory and the various emotional shifts and personal tragedies of the minor characters, such as Thornton's airhead sister only half work as reflections back on the wider economic themes. Only Thornton's mother and Hale's father - who have totally opposed views of the world - really add to the drama.

Patricia Ingham in her introduction sort of gives the game away by stating emphatically that Gaskell was not an amateur writer. But I think she protests too much and this has too many flaws to be the work of a real professional.
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on 6 January 2017
Wow, what a novel. This is what I imagine Pride and Prejudice would have been like if it had been written by Dickens; more gritty and realistic, delving more into the social issues of the time and exploring the differences and similarities between the classes of the north and south.
This was my first Elizabeth Gaskell book, but it won't be my last.

The book first introduces us to the heroine of the story, Margaret Hale, at the wedding of her cousin Edith. Margaret has been living in London for the past ten years with her Aunt Shaw, as a kind of companion to Edith who is on the frivolous and ditsy side. Once Edith is married she leaves London to live in Corfu with her husband, Captain Lennox, and Margaret returns to her parents who live in a little rural village where her father is pastor. After some doubts her father decides to relinquish his position and leave the life of the church. He takes up a position as a private tutor in Milton (Manchester?), a northern industrial mill town. Margaret and her mother both initially suffer a huge culture shock at the complete change in life style and of the lives of their new neighbours in the town who are predominantly northern factory workers. In comparison to their pretty, green, quiet southern village, Milton is noisy, dirty and built up without any of the redeeming features of their old home.

The reader is introduced to a number of Milton families; the Higgins and Boucher family, who are mill workers and the hero of the story, Mr Thornton, his mother and sister Fanny. Mr Thornton owns the successful Marlborough Mills and attempts to show Margaret the charms of Milton after they become acquaintances through her father, who is tutoring John in the classics. Initially Margaret is unable to see Milton in a redeeming light and sees it as highly inferior to her previous homes and John Thornton believes she looks down her nose at him and his beloved town. This results in an Austen style storyline between Margaret and Mr Thornton; lots of thinking about the other, surreptitious glances and misunderstandings - will love eventually win?

After finally beginning to settle into a way of life after 18 months in Milton but suffering a number of tragedies, Margaret meets Mr Bell, an old friend of her fathers and a fellow at Oxford who takes her under his wing as her godfather. By now Margaret is fully aware of the silly fanciful life in London, where each day is spent much the same as the previous; eating late breakfasts, responding to notes and basically wasting time until the evening when there would be dinners or parties to attend. She begins to see this lifestyle as dull and repetitive and misses the friendships she had made in Milton, where some activity of another was always occurring and no day was spent being wasted at frivolous leisure.

Unlike other writers of her time, Gaskell was familiar with classes on both sides of the social structure and this shows in her writing. She was clearly familiar with the social issues and complexities of the time and of life at both the upper echelons of society and among the grafters. She touched on the reasons for the grievances of the mill workers and how they were mistreated and taken advantage of by some mill owners and the injustices they and their families faced; illness, poverty, lack of food/education with long and hard working days. She balanced this out by showing the reason why the "masters" (mill owners), made some of their seemingly unfair and harsh decisions.
I enjoyed how Gaskell wrote the dialogue of the mill workers in a northern tongue, it added depth to the story and made it easier to visualise the characters, although it did take some getting used to.

The only other thing I can mention without giving away all of the storyline is the ending. I think my husband thought I had finally lost it when he saw me grinning away on the couch like a lunatic. My only wish is that there was just another chapter, or even just a few more pages. I believe there's a BBC adaptation which was made a while ago, which I'm now going to have to track down to watch.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 28 December 2016
Margaret Hale, the beautiful young daughter of a clergyman, is uprooted from her father's Hampshire rectory in the south of England when he decides he is unable to make a fresh declaration of conformity to the Liturgy and, in consequence, makes the decision to leave the church. Mr Hale resigns his position and takes his daughter and his delicate wife (who is totally shocked and distressed by her husband's decision) and moves them to Milton, an industrial town in the north of England. At Milton, Mr Hale takes on a tutoring role, which brings him into contact with factory owner John Thornton, a self-made man and an individual (and all that he stands for) whom Margaret takes exception to at their first meeting. In comparison with the south of England, Margaret and her mother find the northern town of Milton dirty and smoky and find the local people brash and uncultured; Margaret is also dismayed at the poverty in which the factory workers and their families are forced to live. However, she soon realizes it is up to her to make the best of the situation she finds herself in and she begins to take an interest in the local workers, which leads her into befriending a young woman and her father, Nicholas Higgins, a factory worker, who is involved with the unions and ready to take the workforce out on strike. Margaret's involvement with the Higgins family and her concerns about the living conditions of the working-class in Milton, brings her into further conflict with mill-owner John Thornton - who, by now, finds himself deeply attracted to Margaret, despite her attitude towards him. As time passes and Margaret and her family find themselves in some very difficult circumstances, Margaret's view of John Thornton gradually begins to change and she starts to see him in a new light, but then a situation arises, the consequences of which threaten to ruin their growing understanding of one another and spoil their chances of any sort of meaningful relationship.

Published in 1855, Elizabeth Gaskell's 'North and South' with its themes of power and authority, and of gender and social inequality, has been compared with Charlotte Bronte's 'Shirley' for its depiction of the struggles of the workers against the mill owners, and Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice' for its portrayal of the combination of antagonism and attraction experienced between the two main characters, and I can understand why this novel has been thus compared - however, Miss Gaskell has her own story to tell, she tells it in her own way and she tells it particularly well. I first read this novel many years ago when I was a teenager and feel I have derived much more from it by this second visit, finding it an involving and very interesting read. At 500 or so pages, this is certainly not the longest of the classics, but if you feel you might not have the time to devote to it, do consider downloading the Audible audio version:'North and South', which is very ably narrated by Juliet Stevenson and which you can enjoy listening to 'on the go' or whilst getting on with something else.

5 Stars.
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on 15 June 2011
Brillant adaptation of pride and prejudice with roles reverserd. More realist than Austin and more informative than just watching the dvd. Listern to or read the book and the dvd comes more alive to the original story.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 January 2015
If you had to describe "North and South," it would probably be something like "Jane Austen with more sociopolitical content."

That sounds painfully dry and unromantic, but Elizabeth Gaskell managed expertly to wind together a tempestuous romance with a story about mills, workers and unions in the wake of the Industrial Revolution. While the beginning is a bit slow, and the ending a bit abrupt, the rich prose and passionate central relationship really make this an arresting piece of work.

After a decade living in London, Margaret Hale returns to the idyllic country village of Helstone to live with her parents. But then her father declares that he is leaving the Church of England out of vague religious scruples, and is instead becoming a classical tutor. Unfortunately for Margaret, this means moving to the dirty, hardscrabble northern town of Milton, which contains several mills and manufacturing businesses.

Her father's first pupil is Mr. Thornton, who worked his way up out of poverty through brains and hard work, and now owns a cotton mill. Thornton considers Margaret proud and snobby, and she dislikes him because she believes he's unfair and harsh to his workers.

And she's not the only one -- the dissatisfied workers of Milton have begun to rebel against their employers, forming a union and going on strike. Thornton finds himself in the middle of the conflict, even as Margaret struggles to help her ailing mother -- and despite being on different sides of the increasingly heated conflict, the two of them begin to fall in love. But misunderstandings, class differences and tragedy stand in their way.

"North and South" is relatively obscure, compared to works by the Brontes or Jane Austen. That's a shame, because Elizabeth Gaskell's story can be considered as gripping and romantic as theirs -- a love that has to triumph over snobbery, class differences, prejudice and the whole weird situation with Margaret's brother. Like the immortal Lizzie and Darcy, Thornton and Margaret start off disliking each other, but gradually see each other's worth in their actions and passionate debates.

What sets this book apart from other period romances is the whole plot about the workers and industrialists. This book was published after the flowering of the Industrial Revolution, when labor in mills and factories was cheap and dangerous, and there were no laws or safety regulations to protect people. It would be easy to just demonize the big nouveau riche guys like Thornton, but Gaskell makes a genuine effort to show both sides of the conflict -- neither side is all nobility or all villainy.

And it deepens the relationship between Thornton and Margaret, because their clash is over real societal issues. In Austenian style, both of them must change their attitudes before they can find happiness -- the strong-willed Thornton must learn more compassion and understanding for his workers, and the fiery, romantic Margaret must learn to appreciate people not for what their profession is, but who they truly are.

This applies to some of the other characters as well, who are given plenty of dimension -- the bombastic Higgins, a leader of the unions who is softened by Margaret's kindness; Thornton's crusty mother; and Margaret's dying friend who gives her time in Milton some purpose.

Gaskell's writing can be a little dense at times, like most Victorian novels where people were paid by the word. But she manages to use them pretty effectively, scattering moments of bleak poetry ("Senseless and purposeless were wood and iron and steam in their endless labours") amidst the dramatic dialogue and intricate descriptions. The only problem is the ending -- while it finishes in a satisfactory way, the final scene is so... abrupt. Boom, it's over. You'd expect a final epilogue to tell you what happens next, but it never happens.

Despite the abrupt ending, "North and South" is a rich, layered novel where romantic passions clash with serious societal issues -- think "Pride and Prejudice," but with class issues and lots of factories.
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on 16 July 2010
To this day I have ordered the book a second time but haven't received any.

Isabel casanova
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I most probably have read this well over 30 times and I still enjoy reading it. It is my favourite book.

It made me cry, smile and laugh. When I read the sufferings of people such as Nicholas Higgins it allows us to understand the impact of the industrial revolution - politically, socially and economically.

This is from wiki as I just can't articulate (with appropriate justice) how great this book is. Words that I could use seem commonplace and impertinent. I would not insult it so.

North and South is set in the fictional town of Milton in the North of England when industrialization was changing the city. Forced to leave her home in the tranquil rural south, Margaret Hale settles with her parents in the industrial town of Milton where she witnesses the harsh brutal world wrought by the industrial revolution and where employers and workers clash in the first organized strikes. Sympathetic to the poor whose courage and tenacity she admires and among whom she makes friends, she clashes with John Thornton, a cotton mill manufacturer who belongs to the nouveaux riches and whose contemptuous attitude to workers Margaret despises. The confrontation between her and Mr Thornton is reminiscent of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, but in the broad context of the harsh industrial North.

Miss Margaret Hale -- The protagonist

Mr. John Thornton -- The owner of a local mill, a friend and student of Margaret's father, and Margaret's love interest.

Nicholas Higgins -- An industrial worker whom Margaret befriends. He has two daughters, Bessy and Mary.

Mrs. Hannah Thornton -- Mr. Thornton's mother, who dislikes Margaret
Fanny Thornton -- Younger sister of Mr. John Thornton

Bessy -- Nicholas Higgins's daughter, who suffers from a fatal illness from working the mills

Mary -- Nicholas Higgins's youngest daughter

Mr. Richard Hale -- Margaret's father, a dissenter who leaves his vicarage in Helstone to work as a private tutor in Milton
Mrs. Maria Hale -- Margaret's mother, a woman from a respectable London family.

Dixon -- A servant of the Hales, very loyal and devoted to Mrs. Hale
Mr. Bell -- An old friend of Mr. Hale, god-father to Margaret and her brother

Mrs. Shaw -- Margaret's aunt, Edith's mother, and Mrs. Hale's sister
Edith -- Margaret's cousin, married to Captain Lennox

Mr. Henry Lennox -- A young lawyer, brother of Captain Lennox. Margaret refuses his suits early in the story

Frederick Hale -- Margaret's older brother, a fugitive living in Spain since his involvement in a mutiny while serving in the British Navy
Leonards -- Frederick's fellow sailor who didn't mutiny and wants to hand Frederick in to get a reward
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