North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell Review

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my all-time favourite classics. I also love the BBC period drama from a while ago starring the dreamy Richard Armitage. I don’t think I have told you before how much I love these BBC adaptations of classics. Anyway… Set around 1851, North and South has often been referred to as Pride and Prejudice with a social conscience. It is a love story at its core but also explores the differences between the agricultural South of England and the industrialised North and the lives of factory workers.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, penguin classic

North and South tells the story of Margaret Hale, the daughter of a parson, who enjoyed a genteel upbringing in the southern England countryside. When her father leaves the Church over a crisis of conscience, the family moves to the northern mill town of Milton in the north. A place far different from the rural South. Milton is a town in the throes of the industrial revolution.

At first Margaret hates the ugliness and dirtiness of Milton. But over time she sees the suffering and poverty of the cotton mill workers and becomes passionately involved in their struggles.

She meets John Thornton, the owner of Marlborough Mills and a student of her father’s. He is a newly made man who Margaret first looks down on and then opposes due to his treatment of his workers. Despite their clashes and differences, there is also a spark of another kind between the two.

From social calls to strikes, class struggles to mutual misunderstanding between the two protagonists, North and South has it all. It really gives you an insight into how the industrial revolution transformed towns and the lives of people and the hardships workers endured before the time of workplace health and safety regulations. I also love how Margaret is no demure miss and speaks her mind, even if she sometimes speaks out before having all the facts. At times I felt sorry for Mr Thornton due to Margaret’s fierceness.

I could talk all day about this book but I better leave it there before this becomes an essay.

Have you read North and South? Or seen the miniseries? Or read any other Elizabeth Gaskell novels?

13 thoughts on “North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell Review

  1. cricketmuse February 20, 2018 / 1:22 am

    Gaskell is Austen with more grit. She embraces the social problems weaving in the live story. The BBC version is a fine complement to the novel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Janereads February 20, 2018 / 3:09 am

      Austen with more grit… that’s the perfect way to describe Gaskell.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ivysbooks February 20, 2018 / 4:58 am

    I loved the BBC miniseries too! I even have it on dvd. Never read the book though, but maybe I should πŸ€”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janereads February 20, 2018 / 5:15 am

      I have it on dvd too! If you love the miniseries you will love the book. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jessicabookworm February 20, 2018 / 5:11 am

    I finally got round to reading North and South last year and I would love to watch the adaptation with Richard Armitage in too, as I also love the BBC’s adaptations of classics. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janereads February 20, 2018 / 5:18 am

      I hope you can watch the adaptation. It’s really good! I actually watched it again on the weekend. It’s one of my favourites.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jessicabookworm February 20, 2018 / 5:52 am

        Jane, the Drama channel often reshows the BBC’s adaptations so I am keeping my eyes peeled!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. theorangutanlibrarian February 20, 2018 / 12:49 pm

    Ah I love this book (and this adaptation) I certainly see it as pride and prejudice with a social conscience. And yes I felt sorry for Thornton sometimes too πŸ˜‰ Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janereads February 20, 2018 / 12:54 pm

      I’m glad you love this book too! It seems like not many people have read it so I wanted to share my love for it. We seem to read a lot of the same books πŸ˜€.


  5. ofmariaantonia February 28, 2018 / 3:01 am

    My first introduction to Mrs. Gaskell’s work was her biography of Charlotte Bronte when I was doing a paper in high school. I didn’t know she had written anything else besides the biography! Then a friend recommended the mini-series a few years ago. I was blown away. Now, I’ve been actively seeking out her books!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Janereads February 28, 2018 / 11:20 am

      That sounds like an interesting read. I only found out recently that Charlotte and Elizabeth were friends. I’ve only read Wives and Daughters and North and South. I would like to read more of her books

      Liked by 1 person

      • ofmariaantonia March 1, 2018 / 3:34 am

        I’ve read Cranford. Which is very Jane Austen-ish. Especially in the quirks of the various characters.

        Liked by 1 person

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