By Elizabeth Gaskell
When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction.
This is a prime example of Victorian literature, and right down my alley for a lovely romance. I’m of the mind that romance is great but it needs other things going on and happening to make it feel real and deep. This book is about dichotomy, the difference between north and south (as the title states) between country gentility and city independence, between men and women, between faith and conscience. Margaret is a great character because she is moral and upright, if a bit hard-nosed at first. As the reader follows Margaret through her life they experience along with her a change of heart and mind and a growth of character as she deals with the poverty and the politics of the North. We meet John Thornton, a man who is stubborn but incredibly fair and honest. I love his character because he has so much integrity that he cannot lie even to save his own feelings or those he loves. There are so many wonderful things about this book and I highly recommend it to those who love classics like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice. It is fantastic and amazing.
This gets a 4.5 out of 5
P.S. This has also been made into an incredible mini series that is one of my all-time favorites. John Thornton is played by Richard Armitage, who I fell in love with just as much, and maybe more (gasp!), than Colin Firth as Darcy. I don’t know if it’s the story or the accent…probably a bit of both.
Below is an excerpt of Richard Armitage (better known for his role as Thorin in The Hobbit) reading from North and South along with scenes from the mini series.