Thursday, August 13, 2009

Summer Vacation: Day 3

Alas, I failed to post yesterday due to time constraints and a weird, ongoing problem with Google. Here is yesterday's book:

Milton (a fictional name for Manchester)
Victorian era

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... So wrote an author that while describing a different era, undoubtedly captured his own in that remarkable paragraph. It was an era marked by disease, famine, progress, hope, despair, and abject poverty that moved Dickens to write his famous novels. The same feelings moved his contemporary (and friend) Elizabeth Gaskell to write about the sweeping changes and fears of progress that typified their era. And while Dickens focused on the working classes primarily, it was Mrs. Gaskell who turned her attention to the complex relationship between masters and men in her timeless novel North and South.

Mr. Thornton owns and operates a mill which produces cotton. Beautiful, courageous Margaret Hale, newly arrived from the verdant countryside in the South of England, opposes the mill (as well as the owner's growing attachment for her). Conflict rears it's ugly head when the mill workers strike for better wages, only to learn that their master is not easily swayed by politics. Soon the unemployed workers begin dying from the hunger, disease, and despair resulting from lack of work. Their story is interwoven with that of the Hales and their own trials and triumphs as they adjust to a new life in Milton. Mrs. Gaskell, like so many of her writer friends, was herself caught between a genteel life and a restricted income. As a curate's wife, she experienced that strange limbo society placed her in - too rich to be poor, too poor to be rich. Undoubtedly the strong emotions and urgent themes present in her novels are the result of her own struggle with life and all of it's joys and contradictions.

Download it, buy it, or listen to it

The movie

Mrs. Gaskell's bio

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