30 Day Book Challenge: Favorite Fiction Book
North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
“Come! poor little heart! be cheery and brave. We’ll be a great deal to one another, if we are thrown off and left desolate.”
I feel cheated.
I went through most of my life ignorant of the works of Elizabeth Gaskell. Why didn’t someone tell me about her?
At a first glance, North and South is like Pride and Prejudice. Girl meets boy. Boy snubs Girl. Girl writes off Boy as arrogant snob. Girl and Boy keep running into each other. Boy proposes out of the blue to Girl. Girl rejects Boy. Girl requires Boy’s help in family crisis. Boy agrees. Girl realizes Boy still loves her. Girl realizes Boy has a lot of money. Girl desperately tries to get Boy back.
The key difference is that there’s actually action, suspense, and realistic characters. Margaret Hale isn’t some bored gentleman’s daughter waiting for Mr. Right to propose – she’s a girl whose family has gone down in society because her minister father has had a crisis in his faith. Her sailor brother’s on the run in Europe because he led a mutiny against his captain. Her mother’s dying. And now she has to leave pretty, happy London and go live in Milton where everyone’s rude and uncouth, and she’s socially inferior to John Thornton, a tradesman.
Darcy was Jane Austen’s version of Prince Charming – amazing in every way but pure fairy tale. There wasn’t much substance. John Thornton, on the other hand, is more flesh and blood. He’s a hard worker who has managed to raise his family out of poverty to be one of the better families in Milton. He’s madly in love with a girl who’s too much of a snob to realize that he’s a catch. He faces financial ruin and strikes. He’s incredibly realistic.
And as for the story itself, there’s consumption – can’t have a Victorian novel without it – union strikes, socialism, riots, Irish immigrants, secret meetings, scandal, evading the law, culture shock, and lots and lots of sexual frustration and angst.
Because the BBC film is superb, here’s the riot scene. Margaret stupidly thinks propriety will protect her. Silly girl. She’s a fish out of water.
Up Next: Day 28 – Last Book You Read