Well, Jules, buy a copy now. It is superb. I loved it.
I have recently admitted to a re-evaluation of Dickens (particularly Great Expectations, Little Dorrit and, especially, the great, the very great, A Tale of Two Cities). They have escalated up through my league tables. Ouch! I’m using a sporting metaphor here. Not an easy one for me.
Dickens was a champion of Gaskell, publishing her work in Household Words. He was quite correct. She was so much more capable than he of commenting on the North/ South divide in the 19th Century. Dickens tended to write (as a concerned Southerner) in black and white. Gaskell presents a fair and focused account of the good and bad of both regions. The title invites us to be prejudiced and then to change our minds.
The love story between Margaret Hale and John Thornton is one which we so rarely see these days. They circle around each other, sparring, defining and then redefining the boundaries of their relationship. They misunderstand each other and then realise the depth of their feelings. Only when each is laid bare can they commit.
Swirling around this is the industrial turmoil: strikes and hunger and violence and passion and love and loss and death and determination. Then, finally, we have a stripped down understanding of the value of money.
And then last, but not least, is the sheer beauty of the language:
So Margaret rose up and began slowly to undress herself, feeling the full luxury of acting leisurely, late as it was, after all the past hurry of the day.
Read it now!