Wednesday, 1 January 2014

North & South

For several years I had heard people exclaiming over North & South the BBC-series, and so I decided to watch it at last.

And it was great I had to read the book right away, and I had actually planned to dedicate this
post entirely to the book, and only use half a paragraph to either say the book was so much better than the series or obsess about the series being the best adaption ever (P&P95 level).

Except when I read the book, I found that none of the statements were true. Instead I found that the book and the series are complimentary pieces - separately they are good, but together they create a bigger picture of perfection.
So therefore it is impossible to separate the two, when talking of the perfection of the story.

But for those who aren't familiar with the story, here is a brief (and spoiler free) summary:

Margaret Hale lives with her parents in the small village of Helstone in South England, where her father is the rector. However, at a point her father feels obligated to give up his living, due to conscientious doubts, and removes the family to the industrial town Milton, in the North. Here he befriends Mr. Thornton, who is a local mill owner. Margaret has a hard time adjusting to differences in thoughts and conducts, comparing to the rural village she is used to. 
Throw in an impending strike, where she takes side with the workers, leading to some heated arguments between herself and Mr. Thornton, and you pretty much have the gist of it.

As I already stated above, I simply loved the story. Some people compare it to Pride & Prejudice (and it's true there are some parallels), but I think it's a completely different story, a little darker and more realistic than anything Austen would write.

The characters are probably the main reason I liked the series so much, comparing to the book, for in the book the secondary characters only have a few appearances, whereas in the series they are brought forward, and their relevance to the story is underlined a lot. And also I actually didn't like many of the characters in the book, but in the series I found them more likeable.
But to avoid this getting to messy, let me take one character at the time.

I really liked the main character, Margaret Hale. In the series I had a pretty neutral opinion of her, but when I read the book, I discovered, it was because, I didn't know the background of her actions. In the series she continually says things that puts her in awkward situations, but in the book it is explained, why she does everything, and that brings the difference in habits in the North versus the South out beautifully.
Also, she is very strong and very capable of taking action
when necessary. During the book she is given a huge amount of responsibilities for one so young, because her parents are to weak to make the decisions,but she bears it all with  great strength. And I also admire her patience - I really found her family tiresome and annoying at times.
I don't know how common it was at that time to write strong literary heroines - but Margaret Hale is definitely a very remarkable heroine.

On to the hero - Mr. Thornton.
It is very hard not to start rambling about his many perfections, but I will try to restrain myself. If it is possible, I loved him even more in the book, than in the series. He is just as close to perfection as is humanly possible (no, I'm not exaggerating.. if you don't believe the book).
He is a perfect example of the dark brooding hero, that you love from the very first moment. He is determined, has strong opinions, is capable of deep feeling, is thoroughly trustworthy, has a strong sense of honor, shows kindness without expecting anything in return....I could go on, but I think you get the picture. He is definitely my new favorite literary hero (actually I didn't have one before, never could decide on only one).
Another thing I noticed, is that he hardly changes during the course of the book, the main change is in Margaret, as she learns just how good a man he is.

And the relationship between the two... it's just so beautiful, that it deserves it's own section.

I admit, their encounters are a bit more dramatic in the series than in the book, where they are probably more realistic, but I think both approaches work quite well.

Their first meeting, however, I definitely liked the best in the book. Mostly because, in the the series Mr. Thornton displayed a big flaw of character, making Margaret dislike him - however, he didn't even have that flaw in the book. There, the first meeting consisted of them sitting, waiting for Margaret's father, and having an awkward up stilted conversation, leading to Margaret thinking Mr. Thornton coarse and unrefined, and Mr. Thornton thinking that she thinks he is beneath her.
See - same effect, but less drama and Mr. Thornton remains perfect.

And from then on, it is just great reading - how Mr. Thornton slowly falls in love her, resulting in many pages of suppressed emotions.
How Margaret gets to know and understand his character better.
The unavoidable rift, leading Margaret to think she has lost his respect and only then realizing her own feelings.
How you wait 400 pages for them to finally find each other - and then it is all suddenly resolved and ended in less than a page...
Yes, I admit, the ending is quite abrupt, but not all authors give the readers the luxury of an epilogue with the aftermath.

Then..the other characters...
I actually disliked almost all of the supporting characters (book verse), I found Mr. Hale to be weak minded, and pushing all the pressure onto his daughter in times of trouble.
Mrs. Hale was proud, and always complaining over her living conditions.
Mrs. Shaw and Edith were proud, selfish and never took Margarets feelings into account.
In the series, however, I liked them much more.

A character I actually liked in the book, was Nicholas Higgins, the worker whose family Margaret befriends, and a big part of the strike later on. Again I felt I got a bigger insight to his character, reading the book. He showed a big sense of duty, both to his own family but also in matters he felt responsible for. And a great kindness, when he swallowed his pride, and asked for work at Mr. Thornton's mill, in order to provide for the orphans after a colleague whose death he felt responsible for. A really likable character.

Another character, that is mostly forgotten in the series, but that I really liked in the book, was Henry Lennox. I know he is just a minor character, and when I saw the series, I merely thought him an annoying distraction from the true plot. But in the book I actually liked him a lot, and felt a little sorry for him when he lost Margaret not one, but two times. And even in the end he didn't harbor any bitter feelings against her, but readily helped her throughout the book, and even arranged a meeting between her and Mr. Thornton in order for them to talk undisturbed. That shows a largeness of character, I think is admirable.

But all in all..a great story, that I would recommend to anyone.    



  1. Very well balanced and excellently written!

  2. Aaaaah, this review!!!!

    When I first watched the series, I sorta/kinda hated Margaret, because the way she behaved toward Mr. Thornton during his first proposal made me SO ANGRY. Ahem. BUT as I've watched the movie more, and especially after reading the book, I began to appreciate her.

    HAHA I love how you started your paragraph on Mr. Thornton! "It is very hard not to start rambling about his many perfections…" So accurate! That man…I love that man;) AND THAT GIF WITH THE HANDS AND THE QUOTE AND WHAT!!!!!!

    I agree, I really, REALLY wish they hadn't changed their first meeting. It made it more exciting as a movie, that's true, but…it also makes a lot of people dislike Mr. Thornton, and I'm like: "No."

    Excellent review!!!

    1. Why thank you, I'm glad you liked it.

      I so agree - I hated Margaret during the proposal, I was thinking "why? how could you say that?", but I think she is one of those characters that improve on reflection.

      Mr. Thornton *long sigh* how can anyone not love him?


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