Saturday, April 14, 2012

North and South Revisited (Again)

I've spent a lovely month revisiting Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. This is a novel that I love and adore. Well, I more than love and adore it. I more than love, love, love it. With each rereading, I love this one even more. And this is a book that deserves to be read again and again and again and again. Because not only does it grow more wonderful with each visit, each rereading will probably bring you new insights as you notice more details. Characters that I merely liked the first time around, became good, good friends by the third reading. And as for the main characters, Margaret Hale and John Thornton, my love for them just grows deeper and deeper and deeper with each visit.

So. If you haven't read this one, what should you expect? A blending of the industrial revolution, family drama, and romance. In equal portions. For better or worse. For those truly looking to read about the industrial revolution, class differences between masters and employees, unions and strikes, economic and social issues, then the added romance may be a bonus that you may or may not want. For those who are looking for the BEST ROMANCE EVER--and you'll get it in North and South, I promise--then you may find all the talk about strikes and workers' rights a bit dry. The first time I read the novel, I admit, I wanted the romance to get started. I didn't want to wait. I didn't want to have to be patient. I wanted it to be giddy-making from start to finish. But. Now, I'm not sure I'd want it any other way. Because everything is just right just as it is. Every little detail, every little thing, adds to the whole, and makes this romance oh-so-perfect. And the more I read North and South, the more I love the "minor" characters like Nicholas Higgins and his two daughters, Bessy and Mary, and Mr. Bell.

So should you see the movie first or read the book first? Well. That is up to you. But regardless of whether you plan on reading the MUST, MUST, MUST see the movie adaptation of this one. It is different from the book. There have been some minor changes that seem more major the more often you read the book. But. It is so, so, so, so, so good. It is one of those miniseries that the very moment it ends you want to put the first disc back in. (I average two viewings for every reading of the novel.) The good news is that the movie makes me love and appreciate the book even more. And reading the book makes me love and appreciate the movie. And the movie ending is OH-SO-MAGICAL.

Why should you reread this one? Well. I know that there are two types of people: those that reread and those that don't. And for those that reread, they don't need convincing as to the merits of rereading, of how most 'great' books only improve with each rereading. How rereading is the most gloriously-rich and slightly-self-indulgent but oh-so-rewarding thing you can do if you're a book lover. And this one DOES deserve a reread because there are details about John Thornton that you just might miss the first time around. And other characters as well. But specifically in terms of Margaret and John. For those that don't reread...I'm tempted to just say why?!?! or you don't know what you're missing or how could you possibly get everything a book has to offer with just one reading?!

Read North and South
  • If you're a fan of the BBC Drama starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe (not to mention Brendan Coyle)
  • If you're a fan of Elizabeth Gaskell (Wives & Daughters; Cranford; etc.)
  • If you're a fan of Victorian literature 
  • If you're a fan of classics with strong romance and a bit of tragedy (this one is oh-so-bittersweet)
  • If you look for strong characterization and emotion

© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


hopeinbrazil said...

Becky, I've wanted to read this for years. I watched the movie a few months ago and thought it was great. Thanks for the good review.

Tara Parsell said...

I've still never read this, even though I've been meaning to forever. I absolutely ADORE the movie (which I only watched because I was bored and flipping through netflix one day). I need to re-watch the movie soon...and eventually read the book ;)

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I've watched teh BBC series but haven't read the book. I intend to especially after this post.

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh! is that the one w/ Kirstie Alley? I remember that one from years ago! --- Cattt