Friday, 22 October 2010

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I have always loved so many of the traditional classics - Jane Austen, the Brontes, D.H. Lawrence, George Eliot, Aldous Huxley, Emile Zola, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy etc. etc. I could go on and on.

Elizabeth Gaskell, though, tends not to be rated in quite the same league; but probably somewhat unfairly.

And so, I came to re-read 'North and South' by Elizabeth Gaskell (Vintage Books, 2008) recently. What a truly wonderful book it is; a kind of 'Pride and Prejudice', with a political and social conscience. Although, the last part of the book is not quite so powerful (in terms of a piece of writing), it has to be said. Therefore, despite the fact that, on one level, the plot can be seen to be somewhat more poignant and relevant to many people, perhaps, than 'Pride and Prejudice' does, as a piece of writing it does not really fall into quite the same league.

Never-the-less it is a wonderful book (and anyway, for me, it would be very hard for any book to be able to come up to 'Pride and Prejudice').

Furthermore, the BBC did a wonderful dramatisation of 'North and South', in 2005, starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe. The book illustrates the differences between the north and the south, with the heroine Margaret Hale (played by Daniela Denby-Ashe) having to move from the south to the north with her parents. And in the north she witnesses dirt and poverty and then meets up with the dashing John Thornton (played by Richard Armitage), the local mill owner. First of all, Margaret thinks John is ruthless and cruel to his workers. She battles with herself.

"She disliked him the more for having mastered her inner will. How dared he say that he would love her still, even though she shook him off with contempt? She wished she had spoken more - stronger." (p. 245)

But in the end, she realises that she has been mistaken and she falls in love with him.

One thing that really impressed me was when I found out that Richard Armitage read the whole of 'North and South' before he started acting the part of John Thornton. That shows real dedication, I think; he holds the book in very high regard. Colin Firth did not do the same before playing the part of Darcy, I understand. But on the other hand, 'who cares'. He was truly wonderful in it! Well, both of the actors are wonderful. I say no more.

Although, I must try to get along to see 'The King's Speech'; the new film that Colin Firth is in. That looks very good.

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