The orphaned heroine Ruth, apprenticed to a dressmaker, is seduced by wealthy Henry Bellingham who is captivated by her simplicity and beauty. Their affair causes her to lose her home and job to which he offers her shelter, only to cruelly abandon her soon after. She is offered a chance of a new life though shamed in the eyes of society by her illegitimate son. When Henry reappears offering marriage she must choose between social acceptance and her own pride. Ruth ultimately finds a path that affirms we are not bound to repeat our mistakes.
A social audiobook of love, family and hypocrisy, it examines the Victorian views about sin and the social stigma of illegitimacy. Gaskell is compassionate in her portrayal of Ruth who would normally be outcast from respectable society.
Ruth was the first mainstream novel to cast a 'fallen woman' in the role of heroine and inevitably caused controversy when published. It predates Hardy's own such heroine in Tess of the d'Urbervilles by nearly 40 years.
Gaskell was an accomplished writer and had much of her work published in Charles Dickens' magazine Household Words. She was also friends with Charlotte Brontë and after her death, her father, Patrick Brontë, chose Gaskell to write The Life of Charlotte Brontë.
As well as a substantial portfolio of voiceover work, Eve Matheson's career spans audiobooks, theatre, television, film and radio. She has narrated several audiobooks, including Tracy Chevalier's Falling Angels and Erica James' Act of Faith, and documentaries including Fermat's Last Theorem (1996) which won several awards including a BAFTA. On screen, she is best known for her roles as Becky Sharp in the 1987 BBC adaptation of the novel Vanity Fair and as Zoe Angell in May to December (1989-1990). She has frequently appeared at the Royal National Theatre and in the West End, playing roles such as Cordelia in King Lear, Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream and as Lady Anne in Richard III. From 2005-2006, she appeared as Mrs. Milcote in the original Royal National Theatre production of Helen Edmundson's Coram Boy. Her recent television appearances have included roles in Silent Witness (2015) and Call the Midwife (2014).
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Lisa on 10-02-09
In some ways this is a deeply sentimental, predictable story, in which Ruth, like Tess D'Urberville, is hung out to dry by her author. Compared with the much feistier heroines of the Brontes,Ruth can seem implausibly passive. But it is still a fascinating and gripping account of Victorian mores, and one that makes the listener all the happier to be living in the 21st century. Beautifully read by Eve Mattheson who at least doubles the pleasure.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
By Nancy Bowring on 30-07-10
A window into Victorian Britain
Elizabeth Gaskell?s excellent 3-dimensional characters (Mr. Bradshaw, whose inflexible adherence to his interpretation of the bible make him tragically mistaken in his belief that he is good whilst his actions make him cruel and heartless; Mr. Benson, who believes, erroneously ? also because of rigid Victorian religious views ? that he is evil, whilst in reality he is charitable and Christ-like in his attitude to ?sin?) give a true insight into Victorian society.
Apart from some seemingly endless ramblings in sections of Ruth, in the main, it is a thoughtful, skilfully structured novel which gives a vivid portrayal of how it was to live in Victorian times.
Eve Matheson is quite brilliant in her narration and portrayals of all the characters. I highly recommend this audiobook.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Susan on 06-12-12
Fallen Woman Finds Redemption
Ruth, orphaned and alone at the age of 12, is lead astray at 16 by an affluent, self centered young man in his early 20's and then abandoned after she becomes pregnant. She is taken in by a kindly, sympathetic clergyman and his sister who share their home. Assuming the identity of a young widow, Ruth raises her child and is grateful for her good fortune and the generosity of those around her. After a dozen years, her secret of being an unwed mother is, through unexpected connections, revealed. She is then rejected and shunned by members of the community who had previously welcomed her into their homes. The rest of the story concerns Ruth's redemption; she is finally recognized and elevated for always putting the welfare of others ahead of her own. The novel is beautifully executed with a bittersweet ending. I have read and listed to a number of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels and have found each to be unique and memorable. The author balances sorrow and joy in equal parts.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful
By akacz on 25-11-08
Sublime reading by Eve Matheson
The jewel of this audio recording is the voice of Eve Matheson. Her sensitive reading brings Ruth to life.
11 of 11 people found this review helpful