Wednesday, June 20, 2007

north and south

We have air conditioning again! They installed it on Monday and Tuesday along with the new furnace and hot water heater. We got used to the heat after a couple of days. The major problem ended up being the allergies caused by having the windows open all the time. I really don't think I'd mind so much not having a/c if it weren't for the allergies. Oh, and as long as I could sit all day on my three-season porch with a bowl of ice cream and a novel in front of me.

I started out so well last week. In spite of the failed a/c and 90's + weather, I was determined to do a reorganization of the kids' room, plus all of the other housework that got ignored in the last crazy weeks of school. After the third day, I'd had it. I started reading North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, a book I'd been wanting to read for a long time. I finished it yesterday. I loved it! I loved Wives and Daughters, but I think I might like North and South even a little more. There are some faults in the structure and proportion of the book, not surprising considering it was written as a serial for a magazine. Dickens' magazine, in fact. The extensive monologues written in the vernacular of the northern England working class got a little tedious because I didn't understand much of the slang.

But I loved the look at class relations, tensions, and attitudes, and also the contrasting cultures of agrarian southern England and the industrial north. The heroine, Margaret Hale, moves from the south to the north because her father has turned "Dissenter" and decided to leave his living as a minister of the Church of England. He goes to a northern industrial city to become a tutor to a mill owner there. Margaret and her family are poor but genteel. The northerners do not recognize the class the Hales think they belong to. Margaret is shocked and put off by the direct and overly-familiar manner of the northerners, as well as their poor taste in home decor and clothing. She sees them as ostentatious, garish, and crass, lacking elegance and care for anything but wealth and its trappings.

The novel also examines the relationship between the mill owner and his employees. Gaskell seems to go to pains to present a balanced view of both sides.

A couple years ago I saw the BBC miniseries of North and South, which is very well done. I recommend that too. The clothes are not as good as in Wives and Daughters, but the love story more than makes up for it. Richard Armitage as mill owner John Thorton is especially good.

1 comment:

sippinghotchocolate said...

yes, olivier is sick with allergies from the pollen (austin gets a lot of it). which would be a good reason for us to move back to france. :) we don't have airconditioning here. when the folks get hot they open their windows. every morning everyone opens their windows to air their houses out. with the ocean breeze it's perfect.

north and south sounds like a book i would like to read. wives and daughters too.