Title: North and South
Author: Elizabeth Gaskell
Publisher: Penguin Books 1854
Rating: Book 4 / 5 stars Movie 5/5
Reading Challenges: 2011 – Way Back When; Page to Screen
Hmmm… I have some mixed feelings about this one. It’s no Jane Austen. I think I’ve been reading too much Jane Austen style 19th century literature that it’s hard to get back into other fiction forms. Reading the introduction, I learned some interesting things about Gaskell and the book. Did you know that Gaskell made a pretty decent living writing? North and South was originally published as a serial in a magazine, but she felt that the story was limited in that form and so expanded it for the novelization. And her editor was Charles Dickens. Yes that Charles Dickens! Taking all this into consideration, the novel was enjoyable.
The novel spent much more time on Margaret’s thoughts on her father’s change of situation. And we leaned much more about his change of heart. I think part of the problem was that the novel was very slow. We spent the first 50 pages still in Helstone. Milton didn’t enter into the picture until extensive musing about the church, life in Helstone, and the upcoming move. Once we got into Milton, I liked the story better. We met the other players. Margaret was introduced to factory life. The story progressed, but definitely slowly compared to modern novels.
The miniseries I absolutely adored. It cut the longer introduction. It cut some of the discussions. But it kept the main storyline about Margaret and the change in life to the North. The casting was beautiful. Richard Armitage is just perfect as Mr. Thornton. (Although I kept seeing him as Guy from Robin Hood. Definitely not the same character.) Daniela Denby-Ashe was beautifully understated as Margaret Hale. She brought the quiet strength to the character. The book has that quality, but seeing her reactions on-screen made a much more interesting character. But by far, my favorite was Sinead Cusack as Mrs. Thornton. She’s hard to like, but somehow I understand her motivations. That is the mark of a talented artist. The visual difference between Milton and Helstone is gorgeous. We instantly see the different atmospheres with color, architecture, and costumes. And that final scene… brings out the hopeless romantic lurking inside of me.