A Heart for Milton: A Tale from North and South, by Trudy Brasure – A Review

A Heart for Milton, by Trudy Brasure (2011)Review by Kimberly Denny-Ryder

Based on the iconic work of Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South, Trudy Brasure’s A Heart For Milton picks up in the middle of the original work, with Margaret, a 19th century unmarried English woman, ready to leave her home soon after the death of her father.  She has finally realized her love for John Thornton, an industrialist and mill owner in their small town of Milton, but fears a relationship between the two will never happen due to her earlier dismissal of him.  In the original tale, they are kept apart, yet in this work, a brave move by Thornton ensures their immediate and happy marriage and settling in Milton.  Brasure then weaves a tale of challenges, twists, and romantic turns that face Margaret and John in their new life together.

When I read Gaskell’s North and South I continually commented to myself about how much I liked the way Gaskell presented both the thoughts of the north and the south of England on the Industrial Revolution and social issues of the time.  The romance took a backseat to the more prevalent storylines of striking mills and labor unions.  I was happy to see Brasure add these differing opinions into A Heart For Milton.  Including these discussions on social issues not only offers the reader insight into what living in 19th century England was like, but it also offers deeper insight into all of the characters in general once one begins to understand the social context of the time.

Brasure’s vision of Thornton was a truly spectacular one.  In the original North and South we know from his interactions with Mrs. Thornton that he is a caring, hardworking man.  From his interactions with Margaret we know him to be a stoic intellectual.  Brasure’s vision of him as a completely besotted husband was wonderful new layer.  This softer side of Thornton, falling in love with Margaret, as well as the beauty of southern England, made the story warming and romantic.  It was wonderful to see the side of him that is wholly mesmerized by his wife.  It was also wonderful to see Margaret not only as a doting wife, but a woman that still stuck to her principles.  Their developing relationship was a worthwhile journey to follow.

The only thing that became a bit repetitive was Thornton and Margaret’s ways of describing each other in their minds.  The adjectives became a bit overused by the end of the novel and I found myself getting agitated.  Other than this, however, I really enjoyed seeing the fleshed out roles of Mr. Bell and Mrs. Thronton.  I was always curious to how Mrs. Thronton would adjust to Margaret being in their lives, considering that she is such a formidable woman.  In all, Brasure’s work was a great fit with the original, dovetailing nicely and giving readers of North and South a great fairytale that they can enjoy for years to come.

4 out of 5 Stars

A Heart for Milton: A Tale from North and South, by Trudy Brasure
CreateSpace (2011)
Trade paperback (398) pages
ISBN: 978-1463683436

Kimberly Denny-Ryder is the owner/moderator of Reflections of a Book Addict, a book blog dedicated to following her journey of reading 100 books a year, while attempting to keep a life! When not reading, Kim can be found volunteering as the co-chair of a 24hr cancer awareness event, as well as an active member of Quinnipiac University’s alumni association.  When not reading or volunteering, Kim can be found at her full-time job working in vehicle funding. She lives with her husband Todd and two cats, Belle and Sebastian, in Connecticut.

© 2012 Kimberly Denny-Ryder, Austenprose

Winner announced in the Naxos Audiobooks recording of North and South giveaway

© Austenprose. Thank you again to all the participants and commenters in the Elizabeth Gaskell Bicentennial Blog Tour on September 29th. The drawing for the unabridged Naxos Audiobooks recording of North and South has closed, and I am happy to announce the lucky winner is…

Annette who posted a comment on September 29th on Stiletto Storytime’s review of Sylvia’s Lovers.

Congratulations Annette. To claim your prize, please email me at austenprose at frontier dot com October 15th, 2010 with your full name, address and choice of format. Shipment is to US and Canadian addresses or international download.

Elizabeth Gaskell Bicentenary Blog Tour: North and South (Naxos Audiobooks) – A Book Review

Welcome to the 5th stop on the Elizabeth Gaskell 200th Anniversary Blog Tour! Please join me and other Elizabeth Gaskell enthusiast in honoring her on birthday today with a blog tour featuring  a biography of her life and times, reviews of her books, novella’s and movies, reading resources, and a photo tour of her homes.

Visitors leaving a comment at any of the posts on the tour will qualify for a drawing of one unabridged copy of the Naxos Audiobooks edition of North and South read by Clare Willie. Deadline to enter is midnight Pacific time October 7th, 2010. The winner will be announced on October 8th, 2010. Shipment to US and Canadian addresses, digital download internationally. Good luck!

North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell – A Review

First published as a magazine serial of twenty-two installments in Household Words edited by her mentor Charles Dickens, North and South was later expanded by Mrs. Gaskell into the format we know today and publish in book format in 1855. The story explores some of Gaskell’s favorite topics: social division and class struggles, religious faith and doubt, and the changing landscape of mid-Victorian England from an agricultural nation to industrial giant. Interlaced in these conflicts are genuine characters as passionate in their social convictions as they are in their quest for understanding and love.

Opening with the wedding of her vivacious cousin Edith Shaw to Captain Lennox, our nineteen year-old heroine Miss Margaret Hale is at an important juncture in her life. Raised in London by her wealthy Aunt Shaw, her duties as companion to her cousin are now over and she returns to her family as an educated and sophisticated young lady. Her parents live in Helstone, an idyllic rural Hampshire village where her father is the local Church of England minister and her mother a former county belle. Higher born than her husband she married for love against her family’s wishes. They lead a comfortable, but frugal life until her father’s decision to leave the church on principal; uprooting his family to the only opportunity available to them. His former Oxford tutor Mr. Bell has connections in Milton-Northern, an industrial city of cotton mills and coal smoke in the north of England, a far cry from the comforts, sunny climes and verdant countryside of the south in Hampshire. On the same day of Margaret’s fathers shocking announcement, Henry Lennox a young lawyer and brother of Edith’s husband visits the Hales in Helstone with the objective of proposing marriage to Margaret. Because she feels no affection other than friendship for him, his offer is rejected.

Margaret: ‘I have never thought of–you, but as a friend. I like to think of you so; but I am sure I could never think of you as anything else. Pray, let us both forget that all this’ (‘disagreeable,’ she was going to say, but stopped short) ‘conversation has taken place.’

He paused before he replied. Then, in his habitual coldness of tone, he answered:

Lennox: ‘Of course, as your feelings are so decided, and as this conversation has been so evidently unpleasant to you, it had better not be remembered. That is all very fine in theory, that plan of forgetting whatever is painful, but it will be somewhat difficult for me, at least, to carry it into execution.’

The Hale’s are aided in their search for a new home in Milton by Mr. Bell’s tenant John Thornton, a young successful mill owner who has worked his way up from working class to respectable tradesman after the tragic death of his father when he was fifteen. The ladies find Milton smoky and stifling, especially Mrs. Hale and her personal maid Dixon who are always ready to complain about the dirty air, the unsophisticated town and its lowly people. Because of their reduced circumstances and the lack of help in a mill town that can offer higher wages to young girls, Margaret fills in as maid with the household duties. Margaret is happy to help, but her mother is horrified that her daughter, a lady, must work as a menial. To support his family Mr. Hale has found work as a tutor. One of his best students is John Thornton who is eager to improve himself and catch up on his education. Mr. Hale invites him to tea much to the bemusement of Margaret and Mrs. Hale who are arrogant and cold to him, believing him below their notice. Margaret is outspoken, voicing her opinions to him of Milton, their odd northern customs, and critical of Mr. Thornton’s comments about the differences in the south. Margaret thinks he is coarse and harsh with his workers. He thinks she is beautiful and intriguing, but proud and full of airs for someone new, poor and uninformed.

Margaret: ‘That is a great admission,’ said Margaret, laughing. ‘When I see men violent and obstinate in pursuit of their rights, I may safely infer that the master is the same that he is a little ignorant of that spirit which suffereth long, and is kind, and seeketh not her own.’

John: ‘You are just like all strangers who don’t understand the working of our system, Miss Hale,’ said he, hastily. ‘You suppose that our men are puppets of dough, ready to be moulded into any amiable form we please. You forget we have only to do with them for less than a third of their lives; and you seem not to perceive that the duties of a manufacturer are far larger and wider than those merely of an employer of labour: we have a wide commercial character to maintain, which makes us into the great pioneers of civilisation.’

As Margaret begins to acclimate to her new home, she makes friends with Nicolas Higgins, one of the mill workers and his sickly daughter Bessy. They are skeptical of her intentions when she visits and very proud not to take charity. Through them she comes to understand the hard working conditions in the mills and sees the result of their unhealthy environment in Bessy, whose work from a young age has infected her lungs from inhaling the cotton fluff that floats through the factory. Mrs. Hale’s health is also in steady decline and the doctor warns Margaret that there is not much more time before she is gone. Margaret keeps this news to herself and shoulders the burden as she has done to protect each of her parents from bad news. With his urging, John Thornton’s mother begrudgingly makes a social call at the Hales with her daughter Fanny, privately offering her assistance with her mother to Margaret.

Margaret visits Mrs. Thornton at their home next to the mill and finds herself in the middle of a workers strike. Desperate to fill mill orders and keep his business solvent, Mr. Thornton has brought in cheaper Irish workers to break the strike and an angry mob has amassed outside the mill ready to riot and kill the blackleg workers in protest. Margaret admonishes Thornton to talk to the crowd and appease their anger.

Margaret: ‘Mr. Thornton,’ said Margaret, shaking all over with her passion, ‘go down this instant, if you are not a coward. Go down and face them like a man. Save these poor strangers, whom you have decoyed here. Speak to your workmen as if they were human beings. Speak to them kindly. Don’t let the soldiers come in and cut down poor-creatures who are driven mad. I see one there who is. If you have any courage or noble quality in you, go out and speak to them, man to man.’

But, it is too late. A stone thrown from the crowd intended for Thornton strikes Margaret in the head instead. The crowd is hushed and shocked as Margaret lies on the ground. The army arrives to violently disperse the crowd and Thornton carries the unconscious and bleeding body of Margaret inside. At this moment, he realizes how much he loves her. Against his mother’s wishes, he is compelled to ask her to marry him and visits her at her home the next day. She has recovered enough to be repulsed by his offer and flatly refuse him. He is crushed.

John: ‘One word more. You look as if you thought it tainted you to be loved by me. You cannot avoid it. Nay, I, if I would, cannot cleanse you from it. But I would not, if I could. I have never loved any woman before: my life has been too busy, my thoughts too much absorbed with other things. Now I love, and will love. But do not be afraid of too much expression on my part.’

Of course Gaskell has built up to this moment so beautifully that we are crestfallen by Margaret’s reaction to his admission of love. It is the axis of the novel. She despises him and accuses him of ungentlemanly behavior, the worst insult to throw at a man trying to win the heart of a lady. He is hurt yet dignified in rejection. That is indeed an act of a gentleman that she does not recognize yet.

How these two strong minded and opposing personalities will come together, and we are never in doubt that they will, is one of the most moving and satisfying love stories that I have ever read. Often compared to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Gaskell’s North and South parallels many of the same misunderstanding and misconceptions that the two protagonists go through to reach mutual respect and love. This was the first Gaskell novel that I have read, and her style, while more effusive and descriptive than Austen’s was a welcome surprise. Interlaced with this study of the diametric personalities are the differences in the lifestyles from agricultural southern England to the industrial north. Her characterizations were so detailed and real, that I cared deeply about the outcome of each of them. I recommend North and South highly. It will remain one of my cherished novels that I reread regularly. That is the greatest compliment an author can hope for.

This Naxos Audiobooks edition was sensitively read by Clare Willie whose characterizations reminded me of the voices of the actors in the 2004 North and South mini-series. I was so drawn into the story by her melodic intonations that I have never enjoyed my commute to work as much as the 18 hours and 36 minutes during this audio book recording. Gaskell’s powerful story of the division of workers and master told through the eyes of a haughty girl from the south of England who is thrown against her wishes and better judgment by her father’s life choices into a foreign world of the working class struggles of a northern mill owner is her most beloved work for good reason. Margaret Hale and John Thornton are a romance to remember and savor again, and again.

North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell, read by Clare Willie
Naxos Audiobooks (2010)
Unabridged audio book, 15 CD’s, 18h 36m
ISBN: 978-962634185-8

Follow this link to the next stop on the Elizabeth Gaskell Bicentenary Celebration Blog Tour a review of the North and South (2004) mini-series by Maria at Fly High

Sometimes one likes foolish people for their folly, better than wise people for their wisdom.” Elizabeth Gaskell, Wives and Daughters

© 2007 -2010 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Elizabeth Gaskell Bicentenary Blog Tour Slated for September 29th

Mark your calendars for September 29th and return for a blog tour by thirteen Elizabeth Gaskell enthusiasts in celebration of the 200th anniversary of her birth in 1810.

In addition to a biography of her life, her novels, short stories and movies will be reviewed, reading resources detailed, and a photographic tour of her home at Plymouth Grove in Manchester will be featured.  One lucky commenter will win a copy of an unabridged edition of North and South by Naxos AudioBooks read by Clare Willie. That’s 18 hours of Margaret Hale and John Thornton sparring and sparking in Gaskell’s most acclaimed work.  Here is a list of participants. You can visit them in any order and all comments during the contest will count toward your chance to win. Good luck and happy birthday Mrs. Gaskell.

Biography

  • 1.) Elizabeth Gaskell’s life and times: Vic – Jane Austen’s World

Novels/Biography

  • 2.) Mary Barton (1848) Book: Kelly – Jane Austen Sequel Examiner
  • 3.) Cranford (2007) Movie: Laura – The Calico Critic
  • 4.) Ruth (1853) Book: Joanna – Regency Romantic
  • 5.) North and South (1854–5) Book: Laurel Ann – Austenprose
  • 6.) North and South (2004) Movie: Maria – Fly High
  • 7.) Sylvia’s Lovers (1863) Book: Courtney – Stiletto Storytime
  • 8.) Wives and Daughters (1865) Book: Katherine – November’s Autumn
  • 9.) Wives and Daughters (1999) Movie: Elaine – Random Jottings
  • 10.) The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857) Book & (1973) Movie, The Brontes of Haworth: JaneGS – Reading, Writing, Working, Playing

 

Novellas

  • 11. Mr. Harrison’s Confessions (1851) Book: Alexandra – The Sleepless Reader
  • 12. My Lady Ludlow (1859) Book: Alexandra – The Sleepless Reader
  • 13. Cousin Phillis (1864) Book: Alexandra – The Sleepless Reader

Resources

  • 14.) Your Gaskell Library – Links to MP3′s, ebooks, audio books, other downloads and reading resources available online: Janite Deb – Jane Austen in Vermont
  • 15) Plymouth Grove – A Visit to Elizabeth Gaskell’s home in Manchester: Tony Grant – London Calling

Sometimes one likes foolish people for their folly, better than wise people for their wisdom.” Elizabeth Gaskell, Wives and Daughters

Celebrate the 200th Anniversary of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Birth with a Blog Tour on September 29th, 2010

“He shrank from hearing Margaret’s very name mentioned; he, while he blamed her–while he was jealous of her–while he renounced her–he loved her sorely, in spite of himself.” Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South

2010 marks the bicentenary of mid-Victorian novelist and short story writer Elizabeth Gaskell’s birth on September 29th, 1810 near London. Best known for her detailed and sensitive portrayals of English social strata, her novels are cherished by literature lovers and social historians for their honest depiction of the life of rich and poor from the first half of the nineteenth century. Five of her books have also been brought vividly to the screen in television mini-series adaptations: The Brontes of Haworth (1973), North and South (1975 & 2004), Wives and Daughters (1999), Cranford (2007) and Return to Cranford (2009).

To honor Mrs. Gaskell’s literary achievement, please join me and other fellow Gaskell enthusiasts for a blog tour in celebration of her birthday. Visit any of the participant’s blogs on Wednesday, September 29th to read about her life and times, and reviews of books and movie film adaptations. On each of the sites you will also find a link to take you to the next blog on the tour. Enjoy!

Biography

  • 1.) Elizabeth Gaskell’s life and times: Vic – Jane Austen’s World

Novels/Biography

  • 2.) Mary Barton (1848) Book: Kelly – Jane Austen Sequel Examiner
  • 3.) Cranford (2007) Movie: Laura – The Calico Critic
  • 4.) Ruth (1853) Book: Joanna – Regency Romantic
  • 5.) North and South (1854–5) Book: Laurel Ann – Austenprose
  • 6.) North and South (2004) Movie: Maria – Fly High
  • 7.) Sylvia’s Lovers (1863) Book: Courtney – Stiletto Storytime
  • 8.) Wives and Daughters (1865) Book: Katherine – November’s Autumn
  • 9.) Wives and Daughters (1999) Movie: Elaine – Random Jottings
  • 10.) The Life of Charlotte Bronte (1857) Book & (1973) Movie, The Brontes of Haworth: JaneGS – Reading, Writing, Working, Playing

 

Novellas

  • 11. Mr. Harrison’s Confessions (1851) Book: Alexandra – The Sleepless Reader
  • 12. My Lady Ludlow (1859) Book: Alexandra – The Sleepless Reader
  • 13. Cousin Phillis (1864) Book: Alexandra – The Sleepless Reader

Resources

  • 14.) Your Gaskell Library – Links to MP3′s, ebooks, audio books, other downloads and reading resources available online: Janite Deb – Jane Austen in Vermont
  • 15) Plymouth Grove – A Visit to Elizabeth Gaskell’s home in Manchester: Tony Grant – London Calling

Sometimes one likes foolish people for their folly, better than wise people for their wisdom.” Elizabeth Gaskell, Wives and Daughters

Portrait of Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell (née Stevenson), by George Richmond, chalk, 1851. Bequeathed to the © National Portrait Gallery, London by the sitter’s daughter, Margaret Emily Gaskell, 1913

Elizabeth Gaskell birthday blog tour graphic by Katherine Cox of November’s Autumn