SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
My initial thought when I heard North and South was : like, the Civil War, right?
Of course I realized that it wasn't waaaay before I signed up for the readalong, but still. I totally felt like a doofus.
How in the biblioworld have I not read anything by Gaskell or even HEARD much about her? Why are there not more people reading her WORDS?! I am in literary love with her. You see, I've been foggy brained for the past four or so days due to sinuses going all wackadoo. I seriously spent two days in bed watching the tele because I couldn't focus on anything remotely wordy. And normally that would have been FINE except I really wanted to continue reading.
So, what's North and South really about? The industrialization of Europe perhaps with a sprinkle of marrying for love or money and various other turn of the century sorta themes. I'm talking scope here, people. But let me talk INTRICATE now. PERSONAL even.
So what's happened in the first fourteen chapters?
Margaret is our opinionated heroine. She lived for a wee bit in London with her cousin, Edith, but longed to return to her frolicly life in Helstone where her pops (Mr. Hale) is the pastor. Helstone is conveyed as this fairy tale land where one can traipse around in idyllic play, drawing and nature-gazing all day. In fact, when Mags describes Helstone to the Very Interested Mr. Henry Lennox he kids her of her starry-eyed adoration.
Upon Edith's marriage to Captain Lennox (another one), Mags returns to Helstone and is THRILLED and all is merry, even if a wee bit awkward with that whole love confession from Henry.
And then, Mr. Hale becomes withdrawn and decides that he is having a crisis of faith and must leave the church, i.e. HELSTONE. Mags is distraught. Mrs. Hale is distraught. Mr. Hale can't handle the distraughtness so HE is distraught. And all move to Milton, which is, like, the Opposite of Helstone. It's smoky and manufacturery. And there's poor folk all around. And worst yet. UNEDUCATED FOLK.
Enter Mr. Thorton, runner of a mill. Mr. Hale loves him; Mags can't stand him. He has a mother, who is sharp and strong and a sister who is sickly and sickly. Mags also meets up with Bessie - one of those poor and uneducated folks - who she gets a Soft Spot for.
Cut Mags some slack
Aiiighty. I'm diggin' Mags. Really. I know that there are many who are all she's a snotty little snot who has a fierce case of Ms. Judgeypants but I disagree. She's just TRADITIONAL. She loves nature and farming and small towns and neighborly functions like visiting and talking about classical literature. Milton and therefore everything else associated with Milton is none of the above.
Also, let's focus here people. She just lost her home - the place she loved the most. This wasn't a Dorothy and the Oz moment where home disappeared and she then realized how important it was to her. Rather, all she could think about in London was how amazing Helstone was. Aaaand then she gets stuck being the person to break the news to her mom? What is up with that? I wanted to throttle Mr. Hale. Seriously. Like, there are times when I come across a parent of a child I teach and I want to have one of those you-are-the-parent-not-the-child lecture?! Well, that was me with Mr. Hale.
In **my** opinion, Margaret should get an award for taking on the emotional brunt of this whole experience. After the move BOTH parents are losing it slightly. Mr. Hale can't stand to watch his daughter and wife lose it and Mrs. Hale has sickened herself (is this for real or for fake people? Still haven't figured it out). Mags is the glue in this sucky sandwich.
And how sad was it...
Bessie oh Bessie. This is terrible. The convos with her pop are horrible. The whole Miss, of course there's a part of me waiting for death; wouldn't you be if you had to consider life like this for another twenty-thirty-forty years? *sob*
Oh and Mr. Thorton? HIS dad offed himself? Do we find out more about THAT? I'd like to know what was going on there before Thorton had to step up and be a man. Were they struggling? I got the impression that the struggles only happened shortly after dad's suicide when he had to take over being the man of the household.
And I'm still not getting
What was the religious indecision by Mr. Hale. I don't get the sense that he stopped believe in god, do you? I read some of the notes in the back of my book and they said that Gaskell kept it pretty vague for a reason. Is that just in my book? What does anyone else gather...
Oh and the brother? He's not allowed back into England because of a mutiny? Over a mean Captain?
I'm really digging Mr. John Thorton. When he told his family story, my heart just went pitter patter. What?! I'm all about broken people overcoming adversaries.