Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Ruth (1853)

Ruth. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1853. 432 pages.

In high school, I was required to read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I have issues with the messages in The Scarlet Letter which I share in my review, but essentially I wrote, "I think it would be horrible if The Scarlet Letter was a person's only exposure to Christianity. Because you know what, what this book lacks--really lacks--is the gospel message."

Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell has some similarities, in a way, to The Scarlet Letter. Both books being about "fallen" women raising illegitimate children. But. The books are so different in quality, tone, depth of characterization, and message. I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Ruth.

Ruth Hilton is an orphaned teen working hard as a seamstress, she meets a rich young man, they fall in love. She's out walking with him--innocently walking one Sunday afternoon--when her employer, Mrs. Mason, sees her and throws a fit. Since her employer is her guardian--since she lives with her--Ruth feels she has no where to go. So Mr. Bellingham finds her easy to persuade: she can join him for his trip to London and then Wales.

Who knows how long this connection would have lasted if Mr. Bellingham hadn't happened to become very ill. Ruth nurses him until his mother arrives. When his mother does arrive, Ruth's fate seems certain. The two will not be allowed near each other again. For Ruth is a horribly, evil woman.

Fortunately for Ruth, Mr. Benson has a big, big heart for he knows a big God who is all about grace, forgiveness, and second chances. Mr. Benson does not see Ruth as a "fallen woman." The thought of judging Ruth for her sins never once occurs to him. Ruth needs special care: forgiveness, acceptance, unconditional love. Mr. Benson and his sister, Faith, welcome Ruth into their lives completely. Even knowing that she is going to have a baby.

For better or worse, the Bensons decide that Ruth should become Mrs. Denbigh, a widow. They leave Wales and go back to their home, taking Ruth with them...

Ruth grows up and matures into a beautiful, godly woman. She's a good mother and a hard worker. She is able to work to help support herself and her son. She gets work as a governess, but all cannot remain calm and easy. For Ruth's secret eventually surfaces...

I loved this one so much! I loved the Benson family so much! And Ruth was a great character as well. The novel is beautiful, tragic, and just about perfect.

Read Ruth
  • If you like Elizabeth Gaskell
  • If you hated Scarlet Letter
  • If you enjoy Victorian literature 
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


CharmedLassie said...

I was forced to read The Scarlet Letter for undergrad and it goes down as one of my hated reads ever. When my dad read it a few years later he had the same opinion so I'm glad to see we're not just a weird family.

On the strength of hating TSL I'll definitely give Ruth a go. It's one that's passed me by so far.

jmisgro said...

This book is on my list for the Classics Challenge for 2014. This year I read Wives and Daughters by Gaskell and loved it!!