Review: North and South

North and South

                             North and SouthAuthor: Elizabeth Gaskell

Gold Stars 4-5

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Highly Suggested Reading

Genre: Classic/Modernest/Literary Fiction ~

Margaret’s father faces a crisis of faith and uproots his family from the picturesque southern English town of Helstone to the northern town of Milton.  She comes face to face with the reality of life and death not only in her own family but that of a poor friend.  Margaret is torn between two worlds twice over: She misses her comfortable life in the south but becomes a stronger person for sharing the burdens in this new life; at the same time she learns much about the struggles of the mill owners and the poor who fight to keep their jobs during the industrial revolution.  Add into the mix two very different men who come-a-courting and Margaret’s fire and vivacity set the page a blaze.

While this work is hailed as a masterpiece not only of women’s literature but as a contender in the battle of social issues, what draws readers in is not the politics of the day but the girl whose life is altered at the whim of others.  Margaret’s struggle to understand herself during a time of upheaval and personal loss make her realistic and human – someone to identify with.

At the same time this is not a novel for the suffragettes as marriage and domestic dependence are still heavily weighted in this piece.  This book appeals to the romantic as readers fall in love right along side Margaret without her even realizing it.  Gaskell creates a connection between the reader and her characters in such a way that time and space doesn’t matter – the politics of the day fuel emotional outrage just as they do now; and really, when it comes down to it, there is still a job crisis and clear evidence of  class-divisions between the poor and middle income earners.

The only hiccup in the entire novel, in my opinion, is the situation with Margaret’s brother.  The events surrounding his arrival and departure, and his impact overall on the plot, feel incomplete.  While my emotions are still played like a bow on a violin as Margaret finally learns the truth, the pacing doesn’t feel right during the rest of her brother’s plot threads.  Just call it gut instinct but be critical for it’s mine and not yours.

North and South is a timeless classic not bound by the drudgery of many contemporary pieces in literary fiction.  This is a book you could very well study in school but it reads more like a guilty pleasure than a knock up-side the head.

Review by M.J. Moores, OCT. Author. Editor.

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