Written at the request of Charles Dickens, North and South is a book about rebellion; it poses fundamental questions about the nature of social authority and obedience. Gaskell expertly blends individual feeling with social concern, and her heroine, Margaret Hale, is one of the most original creations of Victorian literature.
When Margaret Hale's father leaves the Church in a crisis of conscience she is forced to leave her comfortable home in the tranquil countryside of Hampshire and move with her family to the fictional industrial town of Milton in the north of England. Though at first disgusted by her new surroundings, she witnesses the brutality wrought by the Industrial Revolution and becomes aware of the poverty and suffering of the local mill workers. Sympathetic to the poor she makes friends among them and develops a fervent sense of social justice. She clashes with the mill-owner and self-made man, John Thornton, who is contemptuous of his workers. However, their fierce opposition masks a deeper attraction.
Gaskell based her depiction of Milton on Manchester, where she lived as the wife of a Unitarian minister. She was an accomplished writer, much of her work published in Charles Dickens' magazine Household Words including North and South which was originally published as a serial. She was also friends with Charlotte Brontë and after her death, her father, Patrick Brontë, chose Gaskell to write The Life of Charlotte Brontë.
Whether she's up on stage, behind the microphone or in front of the camera, Juliet Stevenson never fails to charm her audience...whoever they may be. Acting roles in Truly, Madly Deeply, Emma, Bend It like Beckham and Mona Lisa Smile have cemented her status as one of the great British actresses of our time. Meanwhile, her popular performances of hits such as Apple Tree Yard, the book that was turned into a TV series that people just couldn't stop talking about, have earned her an overwhelming amount of well-deserved praise for her spoken word talents.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By grainne on 15-02-10
Romance and Finance
In many ways this story of boom and bust is relevant now as it was when written.I loved the story of how a girl brought up in the country adapted to the life in the Northern town. She is a strong comple heroine and I found this book really got me thinking about what is fair and not fair in daily working life. If this sounds dreary it's not at all, the love story and the family dramas are compelling and it is an uplifting book well read with a great story.
35 of 35 people found this review helpful
By Margaret on 27-12-10
an interesting novel made special by the reading
North and South must be on many people's list of 'books I ought to read but never have' - in book form, its length is rather daunting! Juliet Stevenson's reading, which truly deserves to be described as beautiful, made listening to it a matter of complete enjoyment. There are so many characters to enjoy, scenes to remember, and the well-known depiction of various social classes and contrasts in Victorian Britain, and Juliet Stevenson brings them all out to the full, never missing a single element in her faultless performance. Perhaps credible plot is not Mrs Gaskell's strongest point, but I was surprised at how exciting the story often is. Altogether I have spent several days hooked up to my iPod at every available minute, and this is one of the best audiobooks I have had so far. Strongly recommended.
33 of 33 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Sally on 04-01-10
ABOUT THIS AUDIO RECORDING
Juliet Stevenson, where you you been? This is one of the most difficult books for reading I've listened to (several different English accents, northern cockney, southern low and high)--many different voices required, and Stevenson is master of all of them. I think she is the best reader I've ever heard, bar none. Really, the best.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Think of Elizabeth Gaskell as Jane Austen with teeth. This is a thoughtful period piece, describing the social upheaval resulting from the industrial revolution, and Gaskell (herself a lady) makes a great effort see all sides, the workers' and the mill owners'.
You may be browsing for a North and South audiobook because you've lately swooned over the BBC's recent miniseries by that title. (Thank you, Richard Armitage.) If so, you won't be disappointed in the original. It's as good as the movie (a strange compliment for a book, I know).
Margaret Hale is a gentlewoman from the south of England, lately displaced to the northern manufacturing town of Milton (fictional), where she meets the focused and brooding Mr. Thornton, cotton manufacturer extraordinaire. We love Margaret from the outset, and it's such a pleasure to come to understand and love Mr. Thornton.
NOTE: beware the ending
For all the greatness of the story, the ending is wimpy--400 pages of romantic angst, and it resolves in few passionate repititions of "Margaret!Margaret! Margaret!" and a paltry embrace. Those Regency and Victorian writers just don't know how to end a story. I recommend listening to the audiobook until the last 5 minutes. Then turn on the BBC video (also available on Netflix "watch instantly"), and sate yourself in a real ending. (Again, thank you Richard Armitage.)
155 of 159 people found this review helpful
By Susannah McBride on 09-12-09
Fabulous Book, Made Even Better by the Narrator
I loved this book! It is "Pride and Prejudice" for the Victorian era, and I fell in love with all the characters just as deeply. The advantage over Austen's book is that it has a bit of a social conscience, but I felt it flowed very well with the story. The story telling was lovely, and the discussion of Victorian attitudes to industry were very interesting. The author discusses weighty things without being tedious or overbearing, and I loved that both my brain and my heart were engaged.
The narrator Juliet Stevenson did a magnificent job, especially with the Northern accents. It is sometimes hard for women to read men's voices well, but she made John Thornton much more sexy than I've heard anyone portray Mr. Darcy. I will definitely look for more books read by her, as well as more books by Elizabeth Gaskell, whom I've only just discovered after years of reading "classics." I also enjoyed that every chapter began with a relevant quote from a poem or song. Another of my favorite authors, Mary Stewart, also does that (perhaps Gaskell was her inspiration for this?). It really added a whole extra layer of description and meaning.
51 of 53 people found this review helpful