North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite books. I love, love, love North and South. Mary Barton was Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel. It shares some things in common with North and South: Gaskell's focus on lower classes, the working force, unions and strikes, etc. But it is also very different from North and South. At the heart of Mary Barton is a murder mystery. Our heroine, Mary Barton, loves the man suspected of murdering the mill owner's son. She knows he's innocent; she trusts in his innocence even when most everyone else doesn't. In fact, she's willing to go to great lengths to help acquit him. There are sections of this one that are quite lovely and very intense. Once the mystery begins, once the murder occurs, this book becomes a good read. It does have a slow(er) beginning. Half the book is spent on introducing the two main families of the novel, the Wilsons and the Bartons. The characterization is important in the end, but, this one certainly isn't plot-driven in the beginning!
Jem Wilson has always only loved Mary Barton. He may not be rich. He may not live in a grand house. But his heart and soul have belonged to Mary Barton. And there's nothing he wouldn't do for the love of his life. Even if he feels that love is unrequited. On the day he proposed, Mary Barton refused him thoroughly. And, to poor Jem, it seemed rather cruel, heartless, and final. But readers know that hope remains. For on that very day Mary has a moment of revelation: she does love Jem, loves him more than anyone. But she doesn't feel it quite proper to chase Jem down and say that she changed her mind, that she wants to marry him desperately. So she waits and hopes praying that one day he'll come and ask her again.
Read Mary Barton
- If you enjoyed North and South, if you're a fan of Elizabeth Gaskell
- If you enjoy dramatic mystery novels with a touch of romance
- If you enjoy Victorian literature with plenty of detail and description