Tag Archives: North and South

Post 11 – Favourite classic book

As ever, thanks to Blogs of a Bookaholic for creating this challenge.

OK, first things first; I cannot do this question the same level of justice as the creator of this challenge. Click that. I’ve even included the link a 2nd time, just in case you don’t fancy scrolling up a few millimetres to click the 1st link.

Read it. Fall in love with Wuthering Heights either for the first time or all over again.

And now, for my favourite classic. As I mentioned before, I have two favourite classics, one book of poetry, In Memoriam A.H.H. by Tennyson and one novel. As I’ve already blogged about the former, this post is going to be about the latter. So, without further ado, allow me to present the book that I fall in love with again every time I read it: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

So what makes this classic so awesome-sauce? I think it’s because (and forgive the analogy) at the end of the day, I like my books like I like my men– no naughty jokes please!- not just interesting and entertaining but also with some substance; something that will make me aware of the world around me and appreciate my own situation.

It is here that Gaskell really delivers the goods: she was an author whose writing addressed burning contemporary social issues and problems that appeared because of industrialisation. As the wife of a minister in Manchester, Gaskell would have been able to move amongst different social echelons and would undoubtedly have seen and heard the arguments and concerns of both the masters and hands about whom she wrote.

Many of the problems she mentions have yet to be solved, despite the hope expressed that ‘young industry’. If anything, I worry that in some instances, the situation has actually got worse. One example of this is the lack of power of many unions in the UK nowadays. Whereas the Union in North and South is a formidable opponent with the power to cause strikes that seriously affected industry but also won support for their cause (living wages that kept in line with inflation), when unions occasionally attempt the same action for exactly the same reason in this day and age, they are frequently mocked and denigrated, especially by the younger generation.

What I’m trying to say is what Gaskell wrote 159 years ago: ‘the union is a great power: it’s our only power’ and this power seems to be diminishing as people forget that, “It’s the only way working men can get their rights, by all joining together. More the members, more chance for each one separate man having justice done him.”

Well I got carried away there…

The icing on the cake is the romance between Mr Thornton and Margaret Hale. It’s approached so beautifully that some sections gave me goose-bumps and the sexual tension at some points made me go a little fluttery.

They start off as two good in people in their own rights, even though they have different outlooks on life, different experiences and somewhat different values and become- it is implied- the sort of couple that will bring out the best in each other.


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Top Ten Tuesday – Books worth skiving for

Spring Fever: Top Ten Books I’d Play Hooky With
as hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I would skive university with all the books below… even if I have already done so. 😉

1)      North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell
This is my favourite spring, summer, autumn and winter re-read. It’s not as famous as Pride and Prejudice, but it has a power to it that always makes me smile. Plus it has an extract of one of Tennyson’s poems in it.

2)      The Water Room – Christopher Fowler
I miss London from time to time. Not just the big, modern, shiny, superficial place, but the history behind it. Christopher Fowler’s way of writing about my favourite capital makes me fall in love with it all over again. Plus, he makes encyclopaedic knowledge cool.

3)      To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf
Spring and sad poetry are always linked in my mind (blame Ted Hughes and Webster ‘much possessed by death’ 😉 ) and the middle section with its description of WWI and nervous breakdowns is oddly poetic.

4)      Any book of poetry by Paul Celan
One author wrote that Celan and Baudelaire were visionaries who put all the shattered realities that they had lived through into the most powerful poetry he’d ever read. Celan’s work is almost always a punch in the guts, especially Todesfuge, but this Spring I’d like to re-read his earlier Romanian work

5)      The Guardians of Ga’Hoole (Series) – K. Lasky
Is this bad? I’ve just finished book 15 and I want to re-read it already. Slightly repetitive in places, but the story makes me feel like the wonder I did when I was a little girl.

6)      Plus tard, tu comprendras – Jerome Clément
I started reading this earlier in the week and all I want to do is finish it… sadly I can’t skive to be with this book as I have a grammar test next week. Would that exams weren’t important!

7)      Terre Noire (Series) – M. Honaker
YA book set in the dying days of the Russian Empire (when they still had a Tsar). The lyricism of the prose and the exciting main characters make this a series to read.

8)      The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick
I first heard of this one on The Lupine Librarian both the film and book look good. I’m not actively searching for the book yet as I don’t know if there’s an English language copy to be had in the region and I really want to read it in my mother tongue.

9)      Murder at Mansfield Park– Lynn Shepherd
I’m still waiting for this one to come through! It looks so, so good though that I have already ‘booked’ time off writing my thesis for reading it when it arrives.

10)  Complete Works of T.S. Eliot
I miss hearing the proper RP English accents that I grew up with. Although Eliot was American, I grew up hearing his poetry recited and read with an English accent and became accustomed to it. I would totally skive to speak British-English with someone but, as I can’t, Eliot’s exceptional way with words and rhythm will just have to do.


Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Books


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