Thursday, November 8, 2012

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell


North and South
by Elizabeth Gaskell
narrated by Juliet Stevenson
AudioGO Ltd., 2009
18 hours and 18 minutes
source: audio purchased from audible.com, e-book free from Girlebooks.com

Product description:
North and South tells a tale of contrast between the way of life in the industrial north of England and the wealthier south. First published in 1854, the story centers around young Margaret Hale from the South who moves with her parents to a fictional industrial town in the North. The move brings about many changes, as her experiences with the poor and the industrial ruling classes make her rethink her preconceived ideas on class, gender, and romance. (from amazon)

My thoughts:
Elizabeth Gaskell, where have you been all my life? I've read few of Mrs. Gaskell's short stories, but can't figure out why it has taken me so long to read one of her novels. North and South, often referred to as her masterpiece, seemed to be a good starting point.

The story and themes were reminiscent of Jane Austen from the outset - first impressions, pride, class difference - and I settled in for what I hoped might turn out to be a very pleasant reading experience. Gaskell did not disappoint. I LOVED everything about this book - plot, characters, settings, and themes. The read/listen combination worked especially well with this novel and lead to my total immersion in the story. It will certainly be a favorite this year.

Although Gaskell wrote just a few decades after Jane Austen (and I consider myself a Janeite), I found Mrs. Gaskell much more accessible and easier to read. She also seems to write on a grander canvas, dealing with larger issues and the world outside the parlor and ballroom. I know those are sweeping generalizations to make based on a single novel -  I'll just have to read more.

A note on the audio production:
Juliet Stevenson's narration of North and South is sheer perfection. Her range of voices and accents is astonishing. From the harsh northern speech of Mr. Thornton, his family, and workers to the refined London voices of Margaret and her relatives, it was always easy to differentiate between characters.  I have just discovered that Stevenson also narrates Mary Barton. That makes the selection of my next Gaskell novel an easy task.

My rating:

30 comments:

  1. It is many years since I read this .Sounds like this was a good introduction for you to the works of Elizabeth Gaskell. I had no idea it was so long though 18 hours audio!

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    1. LindyLouMac in Itay - This was one of the quickest 18 hours of audio I have experienced! I have Cranford on my shelf, but am so tempted to continued with Juliet Stevenson's narrations.

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  2. I liked this one (as a book), but I fell in love with Wives and Daughters (in case you're looking for a suggestion for what to read/listen to after Mary Barton -- which I haven't read). I always enjoy Juliet Stevenson as a reader, too!

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    1. Audrey - It figures! Wives and Daughters is calling to me louder than any of Gaskell's novels, but I have Cranford on the shelf and am drawn to Stevenson;s narration of Mary Barton. We'll see...

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  3. I didn't read this until the beginning of this year either and liked it very much. I've read some less than positive reviews of Mary Barton so I'm planning on Wives & Daughters for next year.

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    1. Cat - I'm starting to think I may have to reconsider and go with Wives & Daughters next, too.

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  4. We read this as a bookclub choice, and I found the subject matter fascinating! I have Cranford sitting on my shelf and yes, it is much easier reading than Austen.

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    1. Georgia Girls - I'm impressed that you (1) read a classics for book club and (2) that it was a long one! It's been a couple of years since we have accomplished either feat in my group ;-)

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  5. Wow! 5 stars? You've convinced me to give Gaskell a try. Off to see if my library has this or Cranford available on audio. Thanks! :)

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    1. Les - Gaskell is definitely worth a try! I have Cranford on my shelf, am drawn to Juliet Stevenson's narration of Mary Barton, but really want to read Wives & Daughters next. We'll see where I end up...

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  6. I have been curious about Gaskell, but haven't really been convinced to try her out. But as I'm out of Austens to read, maybe I should start with this one.

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    1. Claire - It's funny, but I have been 'saving' Emma for years now because I don't want to run out of Austens. Don't think I can hold out much longer!

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  7. I have this on kindle and now your fabulous review is making me want to get to it ASAP! Have a good weekend, Joanne. <(")

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    1. Thanks, Kaye! This was a relatively painless and very engaging classic.

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  8. Your wonderful review has just put this title on my TBR/TBL list. I've heard of this book so long, but never read it. And I've seen what a marvellous actor Juliet Stevenson is films, esp. one of my faves "And When Did You Last See Your Father", as Colin Firth's mother, Jim Broadbent as the father. Very intense, highly recommendable movie based on the book by Blake Morrison. See if you can find it on Audio.

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    1. Arti - Thanks so much for the film recommendation! I have just added And When Did You Last See Your Father to my Netflix queue, but don't see it available on audible. Will check my library tomorrow.

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  9. I'm long past due in getting around to this one but it sounds like I need to make sure to do it on audio.

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    1. Lisa - Definitely an audio hit, but if you enjoy read/listen combos, it's perfect for that too!

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  10. Oh my, I'm hugging myself because I bought this one a while ago!! I can't wait to settle in to listen to this one. Maybe we will get one heck of a blizzard this winter and school will be canceled!! Loved your review!!

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    1. Staci - Perfect!! Download the free ebook and you can totally lose yourself in this one!

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  11. Juliet Stevenson seems like an ideal actor to read these books. Think I'll try one.

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    1. Fay - Juliet Stevenson has become one of my favorite audiobook narrators. Hope you get a chance to enjoy this one, too!

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    2. JoAnn, based on your comments here, I am now listening to North and South. It is a fine reading. Thanks for the tip.

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    3. Fay - I'm SO glad you are enjoying the North and South audio. It is a fine production!

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  12. Have you watched the film?

    It is my favourite love story on film.

    And if I can possibly say this the ending on the film is better than in the book well more sentimental, but right for a film.

    Christy

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    1. Christy - I have the BBC adaptation on the top of my Netflix queue and can't wait to watch it! The ending of the book was a little abrupt, so I'm glad to know that the film is more sentimental :-)

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  13. Looks like one I'll have to listen too. I'm trying not to bring home any new books til after the holidays are over and since you loved the audio so much I should check it out. I've always wanted to see the mini series too.

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    1. Stacybuckeye - I seem to be doing really well with classics on audio lately. I'm looking forward to the miniseries, too!

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  14. I was really impressed by Juliette Stevenson's narration as well and was so glad you had recommended it! The listening/reading combination seems to work really well for me as well.

    Like you I found Gaskell to be much more readable than Austen and I found her setting to be a bit easier to relate to. I don't often read of the factory/working conditions of Victorian England so it was nice to see that perspective! I see you have the miniseries on queue--I look forward to watching it as well!

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    1. Trish - I'm hoping one of my daughters might be interested in watching the miniseries over the holidays, but not holding my breath. We'll see.

      My latest read/listen classic combination is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. What a story! I found an audio for $1.95 at audible. It's not the greatest production, but at least I can keep listening in the car. Have to pick up Twin A from college in a few days, so that should be good for several hours of listening on the way We'll talk on the drive back home!

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