North and South
Penguin, 1996 (original publication 1855)
My journey to this book is an interesting one. Several years ago, a girlfriend suggested I give the BBC miniseries North & South a try, since I like Jane Austen miniseries so much. I tucked the recommendation away in my mental files, and it got lost. Then, on twitter, I saw where Kimberly Truesdale mentioned her next writing project, and got sucked into a hilarious conversation about superpowers, Mr Thornton (whom I knew nothing about) and Thorin Oakenshield (who I definitely have opinions on!) Out of that late night hilarity, we came up with the idea of an Indie Jane read-along of North and South, to culminate in a group watch of the miniseries (it stars the dreamy Dwarf King in a cravat. I kid you not). And so, the reading began ... and I was so, so hooked.
The story itself is ... well, it's quite a bit like Pride and Prejudice, actually. There's the girl (Margaret), who finds herself in reduced circumstances thanks to the nonthinking of her father, and who has been transplanted from the country South to the industrial North of England. And there's this guy (Thornton), who is a little brash around the edges - and definitely broody - not to mention substantially better off than the girl's family, and has been born and raised in this bustling industrial sector. Girl meets guy, and sparks fly. But not the dreamy romantic kind. Oh no, these two get along about as well as cats and rain. Margaret misses the quiet, clean, slower paced South, and fails to see how anyone could prefer the smoke and crowded noise of Milton. She soons finds herself making friends among the workers, and wrapped up in the middle of all the intricate ins and outs of mill town politics. Because her heart and sense of justice tell her things must change, but her prejudice prevents her from seeing the truth of Thornton's arguments. Oh yes, these two argue. It's delicious. And, of course, just as things might be beginning to sort themselves out "as they should," new complications arise by way of a clandestine visit from the outlaw brother, entirely too many deaths in quick succession, and the whisking away of Margaret from Milton back to London. Is all hope lost? Never! This is British literature we're talking about, and our dear writers never leave us in the lurch for long.
I delighted in this reading. There are lines that snagged my soul, and characters I loved to hate. And there's Thornton ... oh, Thornton. He tries so hard, he's so very rough and unpracticed. But he's real. He's flawed. He's human. He's totally on Darcy's level. And Margaret has such a sweet, sweet heart. It makes her prejudices more understandable, because she feels so much for everyone. I've rarely been prouder of a character however, than I was when she up and decided to tackle her life her own way, at the end. It was the perfect lead up to a lovely little encounter in the Library ... Definitely happy I was prodded into reading this gem. Now I can even more fully appreciate Kim's version when it comes out and I have a new author to pursue.
Book provided by my personal library.