This is my eleventh, and final, post about 2014’s books for The Classics Club (just a bit late). I’ll be reading one classic book a month through 2018. Track what I’m reading for the Classics Club here. I’ll try not to include too many spoilers in my review but I may need to discuss some in order to fully review the book. I’ll warn you if I’m going to mention one.
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
- Year Published: 1854
- Reread? Or new to me?: new to me
- Number of Pages: 450
- Date Finished: just before Christmas
- Number of Days it took me to read it: about a week
- Page/Day ratio: ???
- Will I reread this?: probably not the whole way through but definitely parts
Confession #1: I thought this was going to be about the Civil War (sort of like Gone with the Wind) until I started reading it. It’s decidedly not – it’s about the north and south of England. How much more U.S.A.-centric can I get? Although not about the north and south in America, it did feel similar in terms of some of the geographical stereotypes that we Americans hold (about those “snobby, obsessed-with-work northerners” or those “redneck backwoods southerners”).
Confession #2: Confession #1 is a bit ridiculous because I also knew that this was a good one for Austen lovers to read, when rereading Austen’s novels wasn’t enough.
Confession #3: Although I also knew that this was supposed to be similar to Pride and Prejudice, I didn’t figure out the connection (other than that both are set in the same time period in England) until almost the end of the book. Once I thought about it, it was obvious but still, it took me a long time to think about it. SPOILER: How about those two marriage proposals? And all the prejudice on her part and pride on his?
Confession #4: This is the only deep thought you’re going to get in this review. While reading, I was struck by how absurd the main prejudice in the book seemed – that of the educated class against the industrialists, i.e. those in manufacturing and sales. I am assuming that Ms. Hale’s prejudice against “industrialists” is something that did exist in Gaskell’s time but it’s one I find really hard to understand. Living in a time when almost everything we own is made/grown/sold by strangers, it seems absurd to think less of those who make the things we use. After all, if those people didn’t make our clothes (and all the other things we own) and grow/produce/sell our food, what would we eat, drink, wear, and use for living?
I know that racial prejudice was alive and well in the 1850s but sadly, it is still alive and well in America today. I hope and pray that 150 years from now, people will read novels set in our time and have the same thoughts about racial prejudice that I had about industrialist prejudice while reading this book.
Let’s all pray that they say, “Really? Those crazy people really thought less of someone because of the color of their skin? It was really scandalous to marry someone who didn’t look like you? That really existed? Really? I don’t get it!” And let’s pray that it doesn’t take 150 years to get to that point!
How about you? Have you read North and South? If you’re also an Austen lover, did you find it a satisfying Austen-esque read? I did!
Would you like to join me in reading The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather in February? I’m to finish the trilogy by reading My Ántonia in March. After that, I’m going to tackle Les Miserables and will probably allow myself at least a couple months to get through it.