All you lovers of classic literature will love North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Apparently it’s a very popular book that’s been made into a TV series, and I just so happened to never even hear about it until scrolling through the free classic book section of my kindle.
Although the plot sounded a bit boring to me, being mostly about the difference between trade and manufacturing and the poor and rich, it still had a bit of something there I thought would be worth reading. And once again, my intuition didn’t fail me.
The story follows Margaret Hale as she moves to the industrial London town of Milton with her parents. I won’t give too much away because I know I won’t be able to make it sound interesting, when in reality it very much is. Let’s just say that there is also a very passionate, romantic story line throughout, that will feed all the Pride and Prejudice readers. Literally, I thought of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth several times when reading the interactions between Mr. John Thornton and Margaret. They’re both full of pride, which causes a lot of misunderstanding and hurt between the two, even though Mr. Thornton is fiercely in love with Margaret. And of course, there’s the meddling, annoying mother, the rich and poor conversing about deep subjects that will have you thinking, quite a funny character named Mr. Bell, and a whole cast of other lovable and intriguing characters.
The thing I love the most about this book is the writing. Being a writer myself, it’s always a joy to read other author’s work and learn from their prose. Gaskell is a phenomenal writer, and the love that Thornton has for Margaret is palpable. Just read this line from the book about Thornton’s restless feelings for Margaret, and tell me if you don’t think this is such beautiful, descriptive writing: “It sobered him back into grave resolution, that henceforth he would see as little of her as possible,- since the very sight of that face and form, the very sounds of that voice (like the soft winds of pure melody) had such power to move him from his balance. Well! He had known what love was- a sharp pang, a fierce experience, in the midst of whose flames he was struggling! but, through that furnace he would fight his way out into the serenity of middle age,- all the richer and more human for having known this great passion” (307). I love the passion and intensity felt throughout almost all of the book. It makes the reading that much more enjoyable. And it teaches me how to be a more vivid story-teller in my own writing.
Take a chance to read this book, free on kindle. It’s deep and passionate and brilliant. And you’ll find yourself unexpectedly enjoying every bit of it.
Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn. North and South. Auckland, N.Z.: Floating, 2008. Print.