I first read this book a few decades ago when I was young and green, and fairly new to international spy stories (high school, in fact). I loved it then and I loved the film now. The length of time between reading the book and seeing the film was a benefit – there were probably many details of this twisting turning story that had to be left out. That’s okay – it’s been 30 years! I don’t remember them.
I was happily refreshed on the bits I did remember though and I thought all the actors did an excellent job with their roles. The cinematography and colouring was great – gritty and 1970s to the core. If it occasionally it seemed to drag on, I reminded myself, that I’d thought the same with the book and in both cases, I found myself unexpectedly in the middle of something big. This happens in a story with so many parts coming together.
From memory, I don’t recall that Guilliam was gay in the book but like I said, thirty years have passed and at 17 (or so) I might not have noticed any sexual inferences. My children, on seeing the film didn’t notice it this time around either. In fact, they didn’t get a lot of what was going on and didn’t enjoy it as much as their love of the cast suggested they might.
One of my all time favourite spy characters is George Smiley. Such an ordinary man in appearance and manner yet so smart and observant. An obliging spy if you will. He listened and watched and pulled all the strings together until he had his rug of truth. Obligingly letting the others tell their own stories and dig their own graves.
I hadn’t read a le Carre story in years and thought I might dig one or two out to reread when I found “A Constant Gardener” sitting in the back of my car. Hooked by the end of the first page. I’ve missed Le Carre’s stories – can’t wait to get back into them. Can’t wait to reread “Tinker Tailer…”.
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I finally read the book (see earlier post: North and South: is the book as good as the film?) and loved it just as much as the mini-series. I’m keen now to read more of Elizabeth Gaskell’s stories. Her characters were wonderful, believable, real people. John Thornton has far more depth to his personality than Mr D’Arcy or Mr Knightley. Elizabeth obviously knew men to a much higher degree of intimacy than Jane Austen. Austen’s men are all wonderful but their characterisation only hints at their real thoughts and feelings compared to Gaskell’s Thornton who not only “really” feels but does not try to deny those feelings.
I’m in love all over again!
Of course, John Thornton isn’t the only character of note in the book. Margaret Hale is just as good on paper as on film; a worthy heroine in anyone’s book. Higgins is quite different – certainly harder to understand.
My only gripe with this book is the heavy accents in the dialogue of the Milton workers. It doesn’t usually bother me. I’ve written stories using dialect as well, that Milton accent though was something else. Having now griped, I will admit that I kind of figured it out half way through. Bessy was a good strong character as well, in touch with her god and her forthcoming death.
Actually, I have two gripes, the ending was not a patch on the film. The feeling was there, but the big romantic kiss at the railway station was not. <sigh>
If you haven’t read North and South yet, see the film first – having Richard Armitage as the visual for John Thornton is an extra benefit!
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I would like to review this book, but I haven’t read it yet. You see, I was given a copy for Mother’s Day by my youngest Angel. We’ve watched the movie (or is it classified as a mini-series?) several times: there is just no getting past Richard Armitage in this one. Ooh la la! He and Daniella Denby-Ashe do such a good job of swapping hate for love that we are in danger of judging all romantic moments by their kiss at the train station! I love that instant when John Thornton realises Catherine Hale returns his love… <sigh> so romantic.
But I’m getting distracted, I’m writing about the book that I have yet to start reading. You see I watched the show… and, for possibly the first time ever, I’m wondering if the book will be as good.
I am very much looking forward to several hundred pages of Richard Armitage, I mean, John Thornton, including all the scenes that didn’t make it to the film. And I do love a good period drama… I’m a big Jane Austen fan – surely it can’t be that much different. However, I’m stalling. I really don’t want to be disappointed and I don’t know anyone who has read it so I can’t ask their opinion.
I flicked through a biography on Elizabeth Gaskell. It was very long though there were several quite interesting bits. I like the Unitarian connections she had with her family and friends, and her belief in the validity and importance of truth in all things. This theme of truth being the most important thing comes across quite strongly in the film so I assume it will in the book (and probably all her others) as well
I suppose I need to stop stalling and get on with it. After all, a tall dark and handsome man in a starched collar and black coat is waiting for me….
Richard Armitage as John Thornton
Images from: http://www.richardarmitageonline.com/index.html
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