Monday, August 06, 2012

North and South Read-a-long, Discussion #1

Hey everybody! Thanks for stopping by for our first installment of the North and South Read-a-long!

I readily admit that I'm still behind. This past week put a bit of a dent in my reading plans, but I shall catch up in the coming week. I hope you're doing better. Feel free to answer the questions below in your own blog post if they're helpful. Heather and I are both a little behind, so they may be slightly limited. You can also just feel free to ramble about your reading experience so far. No need for spoiler warnings if you're discussing Chapters 1-14.

1. How are you liking the book?

2. What is up with Margaret's father? Begin Heather's diatribe here: Is it just me, or is he one of the most self-centered characters ever? He inflicts all this pain and confusion the women of his family, then can't bare to hear them in distress. Good grief man, grow a few. (Feel free to leave that last part out, or rewrite it. I just had to get that out.) <--Andi chose to leave it because it's a peek "behind-the-scenes" at what our e-mails usually look like. Ha!

3. What do you think of Thornton and his first impression of Margaret? 

4. Feel free to ramble from here on and add your own link to the Mr. Linky...

So now for my own observations. And they are quite limited, but they're mostly in regards to Gaskell's writing rather than the plot.

It's interesting to read Gaskell for the first time, as I often see her compared to Jane Austen. I hadn't explored the similarities and differences until today, but some of the tidbits I learned are things I've picked up on very early in North and South. Namely, that Gaskell's writing is a great deal more realistic. That is, there doesn't seem to be the same humor or maybe the concentration of humor I expect to find in Austen. According to this post, Gaskell's work is closer to other Victorian authors: Dickens, Hardy, the Brontes than Austen's. Having read a good bit of Dickens and a couple of Brontes, I concur. :)

I do find the cadence of her writing odd at times and it's necessary to give it a fair bit more attention than I might've to other novels of this time period. It's not difficult reading per se, but word choice or analogies can be odd and take an extra time through.

As I said, I'm not as far in as I'd like, so there will be much more to say in future posts.


Everyone who links back to their own post this week will be entered to win an e-book from the Girlebooks store as well as a beautiful "In My Book" bookmark/greeting card combo. If you haven't seen these, they're really cool! They fold out like a greeting card but are the perfect size of a bookmark. Like 'em on Facebook, too.


  1. I am in complete agreement about Pa Hale. He comes off as nothing but a yellow-bellied limp fish.

    I think it's interesting that you find Gaskell's prose sort of odd, especially in comparison to Bronte and Dickens. I've always thought of it as much more straightforward and concise! No two readers alike and I love hearing everyone's differing opinions!

    I'm a bit hard-pressed at the moment to like Margaret or Mr. Thornton individually, but I love their bickering back and forth and think they'll make an entertaining pair.

    Thanks again for hosting! Looking forward to the weeks ahead.

    1. Indeed he does, Brooke. Hoping he grows a bit, but somehow I have my doubts. lol

      Maybe just because I've read more Dickens. And it's been a while since I've read anything Victorian aside from The Secret Garden, so it's entirely possible I left my brain out with the trash and have to get back into the swing of this language. It's coming along much quicker now, I have to say. I read a chunk last night and hope to get caught up this week.

      Thanks for your comments!

  2. The style of writing definitely takes some getting used to, as she seems very fond of her commas and semi-colons! It also bugs me that she says 'sate' instead of 'sat'--never seen that one before. But as Brooke says, it's pretty straightforward.

    1. Maybe that's it. It was a bit whiplashy in the beginning, but I'm starting to settle into it now.

  3. I always think of Gaskell as a mix of Austen and Charlotte Brontë, but perhaps that because the main male interest, to me, reads like a perfect mix of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester ;)

    I have *feelings* about Mr. Hale. About the way he treated his wife on the front of his decision, as well as on the religious stuff. But it needs too much room to articulate it properly here. What I will say is that I think through that scene where Mr. Hale uproots his family, and then tells Margaret last minute and has her tell his wife, Gaskell shows us what power a man holds over his wife. I can't help but feel sad for Mr. Hale too though. He makes such mistakes while trying to do his best. Somehow, I never really hate, but mostly pity him.

    How do you feel about Margaret and her snobbishness? [that probably isn't a word].

    1. I like that comparison, Iris!

      And I think you're right about the power men hold over women. I often think of men from this time period as domineering in their control, but it's interesting that Mr. Hale is quite the wishy-washy weakling. Yet his word is still the final word. It's different than what I'm used to, but it punctuates the point quite well. Pity for him, definitely.

      Margaret's snobbishness is just taking off at the point I'm reading in the book. Will weigh in on this further!

  4. Agree that the cadence of her writing can be odd at points. I read for about four hours straight yesterday morning, which turned out to be best for making progress on this one -- I could really concentrate on the words, which was necessary for me! As one who typically reads before bed, I found my attention flagging if I tried to pick up North and South at night. I have to devote chunks of time to really focus.

    I have lots of feelings about Mr. Hale, too -- namely that he makes such huge decisions without really consulting them on the matter. But Iris is right: this is a perfect example of how much sway a man's opinions have in dictating others' lives.

    I really felt for Margaret as she becomes her parents' mediator. The fact that her father was too weak to even give the news to Mrs. Hale himself really irritated me, and Margaret almost seemed like a martyr for having to break the news of their move to her mother.

    Now that I'm a little accustomed to Gaskell's writing and have a feel for the central characters and basic plot, I'm definitely liking the book! Mr. Thornton's debut was very interesting, and I totally got a Elizabeth/Darcy vibe from their sparring. Intriguing...

    1. Go, MEG! Four hours straight is awesome. It has taken me sitting for longer devoted periods of time to get into this one as well. Last night was the most opportunity I've had, and I'm definitely more invested now. I am also a bedtime reader, and I've found that reading a little earlier in the evening, while Greyson is in the bathtub, has helped me to concentrate.

      Agreed about Mr. Hale but as I was responding to Iris, he's an interesting take on this societal norm of the time because he's SUCH A WEAKLING! Yet he still disregards them in most ways and his word is the final word. Interesting spin.

      I was also extremely irritated that she was put into the middle of things. Wanted to kick them both on several occasions.

      Looking forward to Mr. Thornton's debut. Not quite there yet. I'm also really digging the female servant -- Dickon. She's a hoot.

  5. I read this one waaaaay back in my undergraduate days and enjoyed it. However I don't recall it well enough to really participate in the discussion. I think you've not reached my favorite part of it yet, which is the labor strike.

    I've never heard Gaskell compared to Austen before. I'd argue against it. Gaskell is much more concerned with the day to day reality of her own time, social issues of the day and the politics of the day become very important in her stories, even in a book like Cranford. Austen never has time for things like that. She hints at them now and then, but has other interests.

    Still, both are very good and well worth reading. ;-)

    1. Looking forward to the labor strike, C.B.! And when have I ever said that???

      And I would agree. Her writing seems far more realistic.

      Both definitely worth a read!

    2. I like that C.B. says Gaskell is more realistic...I've never been a fan of Austen, so that bodes well for me and Gaskell! Especially if there's gonna be a strike. That's something I can't picture Austen sullying her skirts with.

  6. 1. I'm liking the book ok. I don't really have strong feelings either way and that's one of the reasons why I didn't feel the need to post today. I'll do a midway wrapup for sure. I guess it says something that I was interested enough in re-reading what I'd already listened to (nevermind that I only catch about 50% of what I listen to...).

    I'll be honest in saying I'm not really sure I understand why Mr. Hale left his vicarage because of his doubts. What doubts?! Need to sparknote that one... but it's not Mr. Hale that I think needs to grow a pair, it's MRS. Hale. My goodness is that woman a whiny little I think this is exaggerated on the audio.

    Margaret. Not really sure. Think she has a great deal of learning to do! And I'm guessing that Thornton (and HIS mom!) will help with that.

    Having fun so far!

  7. I haven't been able to write a proper post yet but wanted to weigh in briefly with some thoughts. i concur many of the assessments about the Hales family, and I see this novel as a coming of age story for Margaret, who is about to be taken to school in lots of ways I think!

    A couple of things struck me while reading this first was the way many of these conflicts between the classes are sort of resurfacing in our society today, especially during this election year.We have an upper class of wealthy businesses and financial institutions that threaten to obscure the middle class way of life. The other interesting thing was the concept that learning was "wasted" on the working class, and there was no value in reading or studying the ideas of others. What a dangerous concept, and one I hope we can guard against ever resurfacing among wider society.

    I'm really enjoying this book, and I think Gaskell's writing style is more accessible than some of the other Victorian writers. She doesn't have The wit or humor of Dickens or Austen, but she tells a thoughtful story with good characterizations.

  8. Thanks for hosting this, and good questions! Though I didn't answer them too closely in my post since I don't think I can beat your description of Mr. Hale.

    This is my first read-along and I'm really looking forward to reading this with a group. I've seen some great points from the other blogs.


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