Summary: When her father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience, Margaret Hale is uprooted from her comfortable home in Hampshire to move with her family to the north of England. Initially repulsed by the ugliness of her new surroundings in the industrial town of Milton, Margaret becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers and develops a passionate sense of social justice. This is intensified by her tempestuous relationship with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, as their fierce opposition over his treatment of his employees masks a deeper attraction. In North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell skillfully fuses individual feeling with social concern, and in Margaret Hale creates one of the most original heroines of Victorian literature.
For the most part, that was pretty awesome.
Margaret Hale is an interesting character. I like how when she moves to the factory town of Milton she is able to 'befriend' people from both classes. The workers like Mr Higgins and his daughters show her how wealthy and privileged she is. Mr Thornton's view of 'master' to these hundreds of workers was news to me. How the Irish were hired sometimes because they didn't charge as much to do the work, which in turn made the English workers even more mad. Master and worker didn't communicate enough WHY maybe he couldn't pay them as bountifully as they would have liked. There's two sides to everything, and Margaret's position allowed us to see both.
Since this book was originally printed periodically in the newspapers, there are parts where it seems episodic. Maybe that's why I read it so quickly. Near the end especially was…melodramatic? There was 50 pages nearing the end where Margaret was annoying and couldn't decide what she wanted with ANYTHING. When the last chapter came, then the book finally took a turn to the interesting and ended rather suddenly.
This is my first book of Gaskell's and I do like her writing. Besides the overly dramatic parts, which are probably only caused by the actual character of Margaret. It's neither sad or happy, rather gloomy like the setting. While reading I could sort of feel put down by the smoky town and floating particles of cotton. There isn't much of Society as I'm used to reading in Austen's work, so that was different for me. Not as many dances or gossip. Anyway, I definitely recommend getting to this classic if you have the chance.
Post script- The BBC mini series was amazing, and they did tweak some events near the end, which was good and I ended up liking the ending in the show better than in the book.