I have to admit that I am somewhat of an addictive reader when it comes to an author that I am enjoying. I want to move on to something else they have written. In taking a break from Anthony Trollope, I have moved on to Elizabeth Gaskell. She was not as prolific as Trollope so I only have one more of her major works to read, Wives and Daughters, except I haven’t read the Cranford series. I feel totally satisfied with the PBS movie, that I own, and am not sure I will read it, at least not now.
Years ago I watched the PBS miniseries North and South but when I started to read the book I didn’t remember much about it. The book was very satisfying and I couldn’t wait to watch the movie again. With the richness of the story in my mind I relished the miniseries, with characters I recognized from other PBS productions. But their characters held their own in North and South in a beautiful way. The production was every bit as enjoyable as the book after reading it, even though it takes some diversions from the book, but not in a detracting way. Mr. Thornton and Margret’s relationship gave me thoughts of Darcy and Elizabeth in the AMC production. But this is my book review.
Gaskell’s characters are set in the cotton weaving town of Milton, in Northern England. The city is smoke filled with industry. The weavers are poor and struggling union members, resorting to strikes as their only power for bettering their position. Mr. Thornton is the master of one of the prominent mills.
Margaret, her father and mother have moved to Milton after her father left the church and consequently his position as a parish rector in a lovely village in the south of England. Milton is a strong contrast to the sweetness of their village life and setting. Mr. Hale becomes a teacher and private tutor in Milton. Mr. Thornton is his beloved student and so the families are brought together.
Margaret’s character is strong and filled with the problems of “first impressions” which besot Darcy and Elizabeth. Sparks of disagreement, between she and Thornton, fly from the beginning. We love Margaret’s character because she doesn’t stay at home and mourn her new life in a difficult place, but makes friends among the poor and reaches out to help them.
North and South is a favorite among Gaskell’s readers and I have to agree. If there is anything that mars the story it is that it ended too abruptly. But that is a common complaint. The movie does a little better job of winding things up. I watched the end several times to fill my longing for more.