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review 2018-09-11 20:05
The more things change
North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

How to tag this.


Know this though: if you expect a romance... well, there is romance, but it's not really the meat of the story. More like a sprinkled seasoning to give the excuse, and a happy ending I guess.


What this is about is industrialization, the theme for most characters was the failure point of their principles or what they considered their cornerstones, and the running one on interactions was misunderstandings arising from lack of enough knowledge to "wear another's shoes" (and no, I do not mean empathy), and it was masterfully done (if long-winded). So masterfully actually, that I had a raging fit and had to stop reading at one point (workers vs owners/strikes), because it is still such an on point analysis today.


The vehicle for all that is us following Margaret Hale through a three-year-long trauma conga line, through which she carries herself with so much poise and holding herself to such impossible standards that I could not help but want to shake her.


I'm a bit addled still by how packed this was, and I confess I'm downright intimidated by the prospect of her other books. I think I'll leave Wives and Daughters for another year's reading project.

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text 2018-09-11 12:49
Reading progress update: I've read 376 out of 521 pages.
North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

So many misunderstandings! And they keep getting worse

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text 2018-08-31 14:56
Reading progress update: I've read 145 out of 521 pages.
North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

'Yes; the fools will have a strike. Let them. It suits us well enough. But we gave them a chance. They think trade is flourishing as it was last year. We see the storm on the horizon and draw in our sails. But because we don't explain our reasons, they won't believe we're acting reasonably. We must give them line and letter for the way we choose to spend or save our money. Henderson tried a dodge with his men, out at Ashley, and failed. He rather wanted a strike; it would have suited his book well enough. So when the men came to ask for the five per cent. they are claiming, he told 'em he'd think about it, and give them his answer on the pay day; knowing all the while what his answer would be, of course, but thinking he'd strengthen their conceit of their own way. However, they were too deep for him, and heard something about the bad prospects of trade. So in they came on the Friday, and drew back their claim, and now he's obliged to go on working. But we Milton masters have to-day sent in our decision. We won't advance a penny. We tell them we may have to lower wages; but can't afford to raise. So here we stand, waiting for their next attack.'

'And what will that be?' asked Mr. Hale.

'I conjecture, a simultaneous strike. You will see Milton without smoke in a few days, I imagine, Miss Hale.'

'But why,' asked she, 'could you not explain what good reason you have for expecting a bad trade? I don't know whether I use the right words, but you will understand what I mean.'

'Do you give your servants reasons for your expenditure, or your economy in the use of your own money? We, the owners of capital, have a right to choose what we will do with it.'


I have SO MANY ISSUES with this discussion still being relevant.


Edit (finished chapter): Let me correct: I raged (as in, almost teary from frustration, wanted to be part of that debate raged). This is too close to reality today for comfort.

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text 2018-08-29 05:06
Reading progress update: I've read 80 out of 521 pages.
North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

And yet, yo see, North and South has both met and made kind o' friends in this big smoky place.


So, I got to the title drop and though to post a progress, and... Huh... Hell, how does this keep happening to me? There I was, thinking I might leisurely shadow-read this mammoth while bingo progresses and then 80 pages go by.


The picks for the writing-women reading project are turning brilliant this year.

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review 2018-07-19 11:52
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell

Quite a while ago I read the synopsis and purchased North and South from Audible. I haven’t been a great lover of fiction set in this era in the past (1800’s) and have always preferred reading to listening, so kept putting it off. I wish I hadn’t, though, because this was probably the finest reading experience I’ve had this year, elevated by the fantastic performance of Juliet Stevenson.


North and South begins with us meeting Margaret Hale, a nineteen-year-old who’s living with her cousin and aunt in London. Her cousin is getting married so she decides to move back home to live with her parents in Heston. Soon after she arrives, her father, a clergyman, informs her he has had doubts concerning his faith and wishes to leave the church. This comes as a huge shock to Margaret and her mother, who are very much in love with Heston and their way of life.


They then move to the manufacturing town of Milton, where her father intends to tutor in order to secure an income. One of his pupils is Mr Thornton, a mill owner and a key player in the industry that supports the town.


One of the things I enjoyed the most was watching the transformation that took place within Margaret. When she moves to Milton she’s very naive and unaware of the hardship that factory workers face. She quickly learns of their struggles when she becomes friends with Bessie, a local girl of the same age who’s ill due to the conditions she had to bear. Margaret is told of a strike that’s taking place due and much of her discourse with Mr Thornton is concerning this.


The characterisation was fantastic, from Margaret’ seemingly passive father, who admittedly tried his best, to Mr Thornton, a man shaped by his past with very concrete ideas of what it means to be a master.


The plot was fantastic. I was literally dumbfounded with shock at some of the events that took place. None of it seemed sensationalist, though. It was authentic and believable the entire way through.


What was so great about this book is that it did something I’m not very familiar with in fiction of that era, namely challenge the status quo. There was diverse opinion so the reader could make up their own mind. Nothing was forced upon me, no views or ideals, just the facts.


Inequality is something that bothers me greatly and for the longest time I didn’t want to read anything set in this era. Books like this one show me that there was an appetite for change then and I’ll always find a differing perspective if I look for it.


If I had one slight criticism it would be that Margaret had little in the way of a flaw, just her naivety. That’s the only thing I can say in the negative, though.


I highly recommend this to everyone and anyone, the TV adaption, too. I marathon watched it last Friday night and I can honestly say I’ve never seen one that good before. I plan to watch it again and again, just like I intend to read this over and over. It’s now firmly placed as one of my favourites of all time.

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