Scattered Thoughts on North and South

I’m not going to “review” North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I always find it difficult to write reviews for classics, and this is no exception. So here are some random thoughts from my reading of North and South.

First, the story (if you don’t know) is about Margaret Hale, who moves to the fictional northern manufacturing town of Milton from her father’s country parsonage outside of London. Got it? That’s the north and the south part. Margaret doesn’t take to the manufacturing life very well and has many run-ins with Mr. Thornton, who owns one of the plants and happens to be in love with Margaret. See where this is going?

I have to confess that it took me AGES AND AGES to read North and South. Like 6 months or so of an on-again/off-again relationship. This clearly affected my opinion of this book (the longer a book sticks around on my nightstand, the less I like it).

I wanted to love North and South. If I’d read it 5 years ago, I might have. Back then I actually read classics in fewer than 6 months and really enjoyed them. But my attention span isn’t want it once was. I blame the internet. Classics are now a lot of work for me.

There were things I liked (though nothing that is jumping out at me right now) and things I found difficult (the dialect/slang!). I found the debates about workers vs. factory owners to be interesting (might be that labor and employment law thing) and I was very intrigued by the side story of Margaret’s brother and his mutiny/exile (now THAT would have made an exciting book).

And just when I was getting into the book, it became the SADDEST THING EVER. At one point I told twitter that I was going to stop reading if one more person died. Seriously. It was like the end of a Shakespeare tragedy.

So my experience with North and South was not what I hoped it would be. But I am glad that I read it because it was one of those books I felt like I MUST read someday. But perhaps I will go back to my beloved Russians for my next classic. I’ll pick Tolstoy over Gaskill any day.

(You all are going to tell me to go watch the BBC mini-series, right? I started it after finishing the book but more North and South was not what I needed just then. I will return to it – I swear.)

2 thoughts on “Scattered Thoughts on North and South

  1. zibilee December 8, 2011 / 9:27 am

    I have only read one Gaskill book, and it wasn’t this one. My brain is going blank right now in trying to remember the title! I have a reading project that is turning out much like this one did for you, and it’s frustrating because I really want to get it finished, but there is no steam, you know what I mean? I am glad that you at least got done with it, and that you were able to share your impressions with us. Hopefully one day I can do the same!


  2. Charlie (The Worm Hole) December 9, 2011 / 3:10 pm

    It took me ages to read this one too, though that was because I didn’t really enjoy it. I think Gaskell has talent, but yes, when they started dropping like flies! Very convenient. Back to Bronte for me.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s