North and South: a book review

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!



Add yours →

  1. I read North & South years ago. Really liked it. Will have to watch the dvd. Just finished watching Cranford and Return to Cranford which were marvelous. Read that book years ago too. I found both books last week when I was sorting through book to sell.

  2. I love Elizabeth Gaskell! Her books are so intelligent, perceptive and compassionate. I feel she is still hugely underrated because she is seen as writing ‘women’s fiction’. The bits about poverty in ‘North and South’ and ‘Mary Barton’ are just as hard-hitting as Dickens and her female characters have a lot more umph. Have you read ‘Wives and Daughters’? It’s a lovely book, with some subtly-drawn female characters, especially the stepmother – ouch!

    • I thought the same, Juliet. I’ve only read this one and will definitely be looking for the rest soon. I was expecting something similar to Jane Austen, but found it so much better.


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