North and South, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


The Penguin English Library edition of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell'How am I to dress up in my finery, and go off and away to smart parties, after the sorrow I have seen today?'Elizabeth Gaskell's compassionate, richly dramatic novel features one of the most original and fully-rounded female characters in Victorian fiction, Margaret Hale.

It shows how, forced to move from the country to an industrial northern town, she develops a passionate sense of social justice, and a turbulent relationship with mill-owner John Thornton.

North and South depicts a young woman discovering herself, in a nuanced portrayal of what divides people, and what brings them together.The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780141198927

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I can't <i>believe</i> it's taken me so long to finally read this! I fell in love with the story when I first saw the adaptation on TV, bought the book (and the DVD!) soon afterwards... and it has been sitting on my shelves for FIVE YEARS waiting for me to finally get my act together! Anyway, it was definitely not a short read, but so very worth it. Basic storyline: Margaret Hale and her family move to the Northern industrial town of Milton from their sweet Southern village. The whole family is uprooted and struggles to settle into the smoky, noisy, dank atmosphere of their new home. Their earliest acquaintances there are the Thorntons - dignified Mrs Thornton, her silly daughter Fanny, and her handsome son John, wealthy master of the Marlborough Mills and a famous name in cotton. Despite Mr Thornton's best efforts, Margaret believes Milton society to be inferior to their status as gentlefolk, and so the scene is set for a 'Pride and Prejudice'-esque story of wounded egos, longing glances, misunderstandings and, finally, true love.Despite the similarities between this novel and the Austen favourite, there are big differences. This book is much more complex, and much grittier, leaning further towards Dickens in some respects. The poverty of the Milton workers, in which Margaret takes a philanthropic interest, is a major focus of the novel. The misfortunes of the Higgins and Boucher families, and their constant struggles against injustice, illness and uncaring employers, are carefully explored and movingly rendered. At the same time the progressive ambitions and difficult decisions made by the masters are never overlooked, providing a balanced view of industrial progress in the mid-19th century. And alongside all this Gaskell pointedly shows the contrast between the frivolity of the London social scene and the harsh life of Milton, as well as slowly drawing the reader deep into the lives of the Hale family, who have their own preoccupations, hardships and tragedies to bear. All in all, this is a wonderful novel. It provides a fascinating insight into a time and an existence very different to modern life, while never losing the intimacy that draws the reader into the lives of these characters. I cried several times over the course of the novel, and had the HUGEST smile on my face at the inevitable and well-deserved happy ending. These characters burrowed their way into this reader's heart over the course of the book, and I've learned a little to boot. A fantastic read - and if you haven't seen the BBC adaptation with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe, you should! It's what started my love affair with this story and I've been watching it very happily as I've been reading... Highly recommended.

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