North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1854)

Description: (From Amazon) North and South is a novel about rebellion. Moving from the industrial riots of discontented mill workers through to the unsought passions of a middle-class woman, and from religious crises of conscience to the ethics of naval mutiny, it poses fundamental questions about the nature of social authority and obedience. Through the story of Margaret Hale, the middle-class southerner who moves to the northern industrial town of Milton, Gaskell skilfully explores issues of class and gender in the conflict between Margaret’s ready sympathy with the workers and her growing attraction to the charismatic mill owner, John Thornton. This new revised and expanded edition sets the novel in the context of Victorian social and medical debate.

Review: I absolutely loved this book. I had a hard time putting it down. Part of the reason I loved it so much is that it is a topic I am very close to. Even though this novel takes place over 150 years ago, it still rings true today. My parents were both part of unions and I was as well for a short time. So I know how the workers (or “hands”) felt. Milton also felt a lot like home to me. Milwaukee is very much like Milton (or was). So I really felt like I knew the characters of Higgins and the other workers. I too feel the same way that Thornton feels about the North (or Milton). I too am from a similar type of city and I don’t know how people can survive in the country. This book has a warm place in my heart and I wish I would have known about it a long time ago. I highly recommend this book.

Score: 5 out of 5

Movie Connections: Brian Percival made an outstanding miniseries on BBC based on this book. I was completely blown away by this production. I am left with such emotion after watching this. The actors did such a wonderful job at bringing these characters to life. I felt like I was right there with them during the story and hoping things would turn out better. The cinematography was wonderful as well. Everything looked beautiful… even the dirty Milton. I highly recommend that anyone see this movie.

North & South (2004)
North & South (1975)

This series operates on many levels. At the heart of the series is the tempestuous relationship between Margaret Hale, a young woman from a southern middle class family who finds herself uprooted to the north, and John Thornton, a formerly poverty-stricken cotton mill owner terrified of losing the viability of his business. Around them are class struggles between the workers and mill owners and ideological struggles between the industrial North and the agrarian South. After moving North, Margaret’s father befriends his student Mr. Thornton. Margaret has already formed her opinion of Mr. Thornton independently after seeing him treat his workers harshly. As the series progresses, she and we the audience begin to learn that his strict treatment is due to an overarching concern for his mill and by extension, his employees. John Thornton, on the other hand, is attracted to Margaret’s independence and position in society as a well-educated Southerner. As in “Pride and Prejudice” the marriage proposal comes in the middle of the series and is rejected by Margaret. Contrary to “Pride and Prejudice” it is mirrored in social upheaval as the entire town is brought to its knees by a strike. The latter half of the series is an unraveling of the former misunderstandings ending in a romantic reconciliation which is again mirrored by reconciliation between workers and mill owners.  North & South Synopsis – IMDB

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About Michelle

I'm a Midwest girl who has landed herself on the east coast. I spend my days in libraryland. My passion/specialty is graphic novels, manga, and anime. For a few weekends of the year you will find me at an anime convention somewhere on the east coast.

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