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

Preview of Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell (Oxford World’s Classics) New Edition

Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell (Oxford World's Classics) 2011We have several of Oxford World’s Classics editions in our library and are quite partial to their expanded editions. From Austen to Radcliffe to Burney to Gaskell, whatever they take on, their introductions and supplemental material are excellent.

The news of this new revised paperback edition of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford is quite exciting. Due out on June 9, 2011 in the UK and August 15, 2011 in the US from Oxford University Press, it will include a new introduction, notes and additional supplemental material. We are quite certain that our friend Katherine at Gaskell Blog will also be anxious to get her mits on it too. Here is a description from the publisher:

A vivid and affectionate portrait of a provincial town in early Victorian England, Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford describes a community dominated by its independent and refined women. This edition includes two related short pieces by Gaskell, “The Last Generation in England” and “The Cage at Cranford.” Dinah Birch’s introduction reflects recent revaluations of Gaskell’s work and the growing recognition that Cranford is much more than the gently charming comedy that is was once taken to be. The book includes an up-to-date bibliography and expanded notes.

Features

  • A new edition of a much-loved classic, Elizabeth Gaskell’s comic portrayal of a Victorian small town dominated by women.
  • Dinah Birch’s introduction reflects recent revaluations of Gaskell’s work, focusing on Gaskell’s response to social change as it transformed the lives of provincial women, and the growing recognition that Cranford is much more than the gently charming comedy that is was once taken to be.
  • Includes two related short stories, ‘The Cage at Cranford’ and ‘The Last Generation in England’.
  • An appendix includes a selection of extracts from Dickens, Dinah Craik, Wilkie Collins, Ruskin and other contemporary novelists and social commentators on the coming of the railway, banking failures, household management, fashion, Oriental entertainers and the novel’s first reviewers to illustrate the diverse contexts in which Cranford took its place.
  • Up-to-date bibliography and expanded notes.
  • Introduction by Dinah Birch.
  • Up–to-date bibliography.
  • Revised chronology.
  • Explanatory Notes by Dinah Birch.
  • Appendix of contemporary responses to the novel and contemporary comment on household management, costume, financial and commercial controversies relevant to the text.
  • Reset Gaskell text.

Product Details

Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell (Oxford World’s Classic)
Oxford University Press (June 9, 2011 in UK) (Aug 15, 2011 in US)
Trade paperback (256) pages
ISBN:  978-019955830

About the editors

Elizabeth Porges Watson is Lecturer in English at the University of Nottingham. Dinah Birch is Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool.

Many of you may be familiar with the story of Cranford from the two BBC/PBS mini-series starring Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and an incredible British cast. It was a delightful adaptation of Gaskell’s short stories and we encourage you to read our reviews and seek out this new edition of the novel when it is released in August. Mrs. Gaskell’s characterizations are humorous, charming and poignant, and we are very pleased to see her being given this new edition which appears to be quite thorough in scholarly research and engaging detail.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Moorland Cottage Group Read @ Gaskell Blog starts today!

Moorland Cottage Group Read 2011 at Gaskell BlogThe amiable and talented Katherine of the Gaskell Blog is leading a group read of Mrs. Gaskell’s novella  Moorland Cottage. It starts today and runs through February 15, 2011. You can check out the full group read schedule.

Published in 1850, Moorland Cottage is a delightful story of a widow, her two children and her neighbors the Buxton’s. It was the inspiration for screenwriter Heidi Thomas’ plot line and characters featured in the mini-series Return to Cranford.

Katherine has posted the welcome and introduction to the event including this list to get you started. Please join us.

This is my first selection for the Gaskell Reading Challenge and will also fulfill one of my selections for the Classics Challenge by Stiletto Storytime.

© 2007 – 2011 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

Upcoming Reading & Writing Challenges, & Literary Blog Events in 2011

Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration at My Jane Austen Book ClubThere are great reading and writing challenges, and  literary events in the queue around the blogosphere that have come to my attention. So many in fact, that I decided to combine the announcements into one grand post, so here goes.

Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Celebration

Maria Grazia at My Jane Austen Book Club is celebrating the bicentenary of the publication of Jane Austen’s first published novel, Sense and Sensibility by hosting a year-long blog event. Each month will feature a blog on a topic inspired by S&S from Austen enthusiasts and authors. I will be contributing as the final leg in December with my essay, Marianne Dashwood: A Passion for Dead Leaves and Other Sensibilities. You can check out the full list of bloggers participating and all of the prizes offered each month at Maria’s great Jane Austen inspired blog.

Jane Austen Twitter Project

Author of Murder at Mansfield Park, Lynn Shepherd asks if you would like to be part of a Jane Austen story project? If you are on Twitter, you can participate in a new multi-author story in the works.

She has been developing the idea with Adam Spunberg (@AdamSpunberg on Twitter) and they plan to run a storytelling session one day every week for about three months this year. Each week’s chapter will be posted online and on www.AustenAuthors.com on Sunday. You don’t have to be a published writer to join in – you just have to love your Jane! If you are ready to get your creative juices jumping, then check it out.

The Gaskell Reading Challenge

Katherine at GaskellBlog is hosting a six month reading challenge, January to June, 2011 of Mrs. Gaskell’s works. It’s as easy as selecting two to read and leaving a comment to commit. I have selected Moorland Cottage and will be participating also in her reading group event on the book February 1st to the 15th, 2011 to fulfill one of my challenge commitments. We shall see what my second book is as the year develops. Wives and Daughters? Ruth? Sylvia’s Lovers? I’m undecided. Any suggestions?

The Classics Reading Challenge 2011

Courtney at Stiletto Storytime is hosting a classics reading challenge in 2011. What is a classic you ask? To Courtney, a classic is a “book that has in some way become bigger than itself. It’s become part of culture, society or the bigger picture. It’s the book you know about even if you have not read it. It’s the book you feel like you should have read.” I heartily concur. There are four levels of commitment from 5 books to 40 for those seriously addicted classics readers. I have committed to the Student level at 5 books and will be reading Sense and Sensibility, a Gaskell novel, and three Georgette Heyer novels, because I consider her a classic of the Regency romance genre.

Heroine Love

Yes. We can never have enough love! It makes the world go around. Erin Blakemore, author of that great celebration of our favorite heroines, The Heroine’s Bookshelf: Life Lessons from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder is hosting a blog event February 1st – 18th, 2011 featuring 12 book bloggers writing on their favorite heroine’s and how they changed their lives. Yours truly will be participating on February 18th, (Last again. I know!) honoring one of my favorite heroines Elizabeth Bennet. In addition to the great gush of love for the literary ladies in our lives, there will be tons of swag, yes, great giveaways to reinforce the love all around!

Well gentle readers, get motivated and join in the literary love of writing, reading and books. My two challenges for 2011 are still open: The Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge and the Being a Jane Austen Mystery Challenge 2011. So…take the leap, and join the celebrations.

Cheers,

Laurel Ann

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: Ruth – A Book Review

Guest review by Regency Romantic

Welcome to the 4th 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!

Ruth, by Elizabeth Gaskell – A Review

Published in 1853, Ruth is Elizabeth Gaskell’s second novel and deals primarily with the theme of the fallen woman in the mid-Victorian era.  The story of the long suffering heroine, Ruth Hilton, is almost entirely based on a real life case that Gaskell herself encountered and helped resolve during her many charitable works as the wife of a Unitarian minister in Manchester.  Like her first novel, Mary Barton (1848), Ruth is intended as a social-problem novel.  Although Gaskell tried a lesser harsh approach, which Mary Barton was heavily criticized for, she still lacked the sophistication as a novelist to tackle such a weighty theme and to fictionalize a real-life issue.  Gaskell started to really find her distinctive voice and style in her next work, Cranford (1853), and most definitely established herself with North and South (1854-55).

Orphaned at a very young age, the strikingly beautiful, but gentle-spirited Ruth Hilton ends up as an apprentice at a dressmaker’s shop, a precarious situation that Victorian readers readily believed exposed women to moral temptation.  The innocent and lonely Ruth falls prey to the charms and attentions of Henry Bellingham, a wealthy and worldly man whose ennui is swept away by Ruth’s refreshing naiveté.  He whisks her off to London and Wales, where she lives with Bellingham as a kept woman.  When Bellingham falls ill, his morally strict mother is summoned.  She is horrified to discover that his son has been living in sin.  She bans Ruth from entering the sick room and convinces her son to abandon Ruth.  He acquiesces, leaving some money, and never looks back.

The distraught Ruth attempts suicide, but is saved and taken in by the kind and disfigured Thurston Benson, a dissenting minister, and his equally sympathetic sister, Faith.  When they learn Ruth is with child, it is, ironically, a woman named Faith who suggests circulating the lie that Ruth is a widow called Mrs. Denbigh to protect her from a society that would surely ostracize her.  Thurston, though going against his moral grain, eventually agrees to Faith’s plan.

Ruth gives birth to a beautiful boy and names him Leonard.  In the next six years, ever mindful of her sinful past and the sacrifices made by the Bensons, Ruth strives hard for spiritual strengthening and devotes herself entirely to raising her boy in the utmost manner.  In this period of calm before the storm, Ruth matures into a steady figure that draws the attention of Mr. Bradshaw, the town’s richest businessman, who is full of self-consequence and prides himself in being a morally upright man.  He is taken by Ruth’s Madonna-like demeanor and decides to hire her as the model companion and governess for his daughters.

The cruel hand of fate catches up with Ruth when Mr. Bradshaw decides to enter politics by supporting a certain Mr. Donne in the upcoming elections.  When Ruth meets him for the first time, Mr. Donne turns out to be the feckless lover that abandoned her six years ago.  As events start to unfold and the lie begins to unravel, the safe haven that Ruth has built around her and her son comes crashing down, with morally disturbing consequences to all around her.

When I was reading this novel, echoes of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa and Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles kept coming to mind.  Like the heroines of those two novels, Ruth is painted as an innocent, pure as snow, who, by one naïve decision, becomes the victim of an unscrupulous man, leading to negative repercussions for the rest of her life.  But she bears all the hardships with saintly forbearance.  I have never been able to sympathize with such types of heroines.  Their outward passivity just makes me want to throttle them.  Perhaps Gaskell chose this strategy to head off criticisms for her heroine and the overt topics of sexuality and promiscuity, certainly a bold choice in that era; but by the same token, it also made Ruth unreal to me.  Is any woman ever that saintly?  I do find that Gaskell examines the central themes of the end-justifying-the-means, true faith, and forgiveness very sincerely, with deeply felt moral convictions, but oftentimes, the elements of religiosity become a little too overt for my taste.  What I did like were glimpses of Gaskell’s adept hand at descriptive passages of the outside world that clearly mirror the inner world of the character, a technique she perfected by North and South.  One such passage is this, as Ruth grapples with the confusion she feels upon discovering that Mr. Donne is her former faithless lover:

She threw her body half out of the window into the cold night air.  The wind was rising, and came in great gusts.  The rain beat down on her.  It did her good.  A still, calm night would not have soothed her as this did.  The wild tattered clouds, hurrying past the moon, gave her a foolish kind of pleasure that almost made her smile a vacant smile.  (Chapter 23)

Admittedly, it is a tad melodramatic.  Perhaps this shows why Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë were such good friends, but Gaskell truly makes us feel the keenness of Ruth’s oppression.  With the exception of the character of Sally, the Benson’s housekeeper (and the forerunner to Dixon’s character in North and South), who offers comic relief that comes too few and far between, the unrelenting doom-and-gloom tone of the novel makes the plot move at a plodding pace.  Awkward transitional passages and the contrived reappearance of the anti-hero betray Gaskell’s relatively inexperienced hand.  It is only in the final 100 pages of the novel that the plot really starts to pick up and the flawed characters start to redeem themselves – a case of too little, too late.  Although the conclusion of the novel is not a surprise to most readers, plowing through this novel is like being unable to turn away from witnessing a train wreck.  One early critic expressed that Ruth was ‘not a book for young people, unless read with somebody older’.   I would attach a simpler warning: Ruth is ‘not a book for suicidal people’.

Follow this link to the next stop on the Elizabeth Gaskell Bicentenary Celebration Blog Tour a book review of the North and South by Laurel Ann of Austenprose

© 2007 – 2010 Regency Romantic, Austenprose

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

Sunday Smile: Pride and Prejudice and North and South Trailer

Bonnet drama fans are so clever. This mash-up of two of my favorite movies really made me smile. Hope you enjoy it too.

Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell: A Naxos Audiobooks Review & Giveaway

To prime myself for Return to Cranford, the new Masterpiece Classic sequel to last year’s award-winning mini-series Cranford on PBS, I wanted to read Mrs. Gaskell’s original novel that it was adapted from. Since I am always short of reading time, I chose instead to listen to an audio recording, my favorite pastime during my commute to work. After a bit of research on Cranford audio book recordings, I settled on the Naxos edition. From my experience with their recording of Jane Austen’s novels I knew the quality would be superior. I was not disappointed.

A witty and poignant portrait of small town life in an early Victorian-era English village, Cranford was first published in 1851 as a serial in the magazine Household Words edited by Charles Dickens. Inspired by author Elizabeth Gaskell’s (1810-1865) early life in Knutsford in Cheshire where she was raised by an aunt after her mother’s death and father’s subsequent re-marriage, the novel revolves around the narrator Miss Mary Smith and the Amazons of the community: the authoritative Miss Deborah Jenkyns and her kindhearted but timid younger sister Matty, the always well informed Miss Miss Pole and the self-important aristocratic Mrs. Jamieson. This gentle satire of village life does not supply much of a plot – but amazingly it does not matter. Gaskell has the incredible talent of making everyday occurrences and life events totally engrossing. Miss Matty’s conservative friends, the middle-aged spinsters and widows of Cranford, do not want their quaint life and traditions altered one bit. They like Cranford just as it has always been, therefore when the industrial revolution that swept through England in the 1840’s encroaches upon their Shangri-La, they lament and bustle about attempting to do everything in there power to stop the evil railroad’s arrival. Gaskell is a deft tactician at dry humor, not unlike her predecessor Jane Austen, and the comedy in Cranford balanced with a bit of tragedy is its most endearing quality.

This unabridged audio book recording is aptly read by Claire Willie whose sensitive and lyrical interpretation of Gaskell’s narrative enhanced my enjoyment of the story by two fold. Her rendering of the different characters with change of timbre and intonation was charmingly effective. My favorite character was of course the kindhearted Miss Matty. Even though she is of a certain age she has a child-like naïveté refreshingly seeing her friends and her world in simple terms. In opposition to our present day lives of cell-phones, blackberries and information overload, a trip to Cranford was a welcome respite. I recommend it highly.

2010 marks the 200th anniversary of author Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell nee Stevenson’s birth on 29 September 1810 in Chelsea, which was then on the outskirts of London. In celebration of her bi-centenary, Naxos Audiobooks will be releasing three additional recordings of her novels: North and South in February again read by Claire Willis, Wives and Daughters in March read by Patience Tomlinson and Cousin Phillis in May read by Joe Marsh. Happily, I will be enjoying many hours of great Gaskell listening this year.

5 out of 5 Stars

Cranford, by Elizabeth Gaskell
Read by Claire Willie
Naxos Audiobooks, USA
Unabridged, 6 CDs, running time: 7h 02m
ISBN: 978–9626348505

Giveaway

Enter a chance to win a copy of the Naxos Audiobooks recording of Cranford by leaving a comment by 11:59 pm PT on Sunday, January 24th, 2010 stating which character in Return to Cranford on Masterpiece Classic was your favorite, or which other Victorian era author you have read and would like to see an audio book recording made of. Winner will be announced on Monday January 25th, 2010. Shipping to US and Canadian addresses only. Good luck!

UPDATE 01/25/10: The contest has concluded. The winner was announced. Follow this link to discover id it was YOU!

Share

Elizabeth Gaskell & Jane Austen: Comparisons are Inevitable

A comparison (of Elizabeth Gaskell) to Jane Austen for its combination of humor and moral judgment in the observation of character and conduct is often made, not unjustly, though Mrs. Gaskell’s canvas is larger than Austen’s bit of ivory.” Edgar Wright

Victorian-era author Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) has been said to have a “wit to challenge Jane Austen’s, a conscience of social struggle unrivalled by Dickens, and charm and values to enrapture George Eliot’s fans.” This is high praise indeed to be mentioned with such exalted literary company, and we are fortune that several of her novels have been recently adapted into movies by the BBC/WGBH: Wives and Daughter (1999), North and South (2004) Cranford (2007) and now Return to Cranford (2009), which will be presented on Masterpiece Classic on the next two Sundays (January 10th & 17th) on PBS. You can read a preview of the series here.

Like Jane Austen, Mrs. Gaskell wrote six major novels, her last novel Wives and Daughters was published posthumously in 1865. Her characters are so engaging and finely drawn that comparisons to Miss Austen are inevitable. We see a bit of the garrulous Miss Bates (Emma), the melodramatic Mrs. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice) and indolent Lady Bertram (Mansfield Park) in Mrs. Gaskell’s characterizations. Life in the village of Cranford has it’s similarities to Meryton (Pride and Prejudice) and Highbury (Emma) with its small close community, shops and market. However, Gaskell’s narrative is much more expansive than Austen’s, introducing a wider social and economic sphere into her characters lives. We also feel the influence of her contemporaries such as author Charles Dickens’ deeper social commentary and moral sensibility throughout her stories.

Return to Cranford aired in the UK in December, 2009 and was warmly received. This new series has been highly anticipated by many Masterpiece fans, and a fitting opener to the Masterpiece Classic season which also includes a four part adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma premiering on January 24th, 2010 staring Romola Garai as the clever, handsome but clueless Miss Woodhouse and Jonny Lee Miller as her disapproving neighbor Mr. Knightley. You can prime yourself for the premiere at these fine sites.

Return to Cranford Preview – the enchantment continues Sunday on Masterpiece Classic

Image from Return to Cranford: Cranford ladies leaving church © BBC Worldwide 2010 for MASTERPIECE

The Masterpiece Classic season premieres on Sunday, January 10th with Return to Cranford, a two part series based on the stories of Victorian-era writer Elizabeth Gaskell. Dame Judi Dench reprises her role of the compassionate Miss Matty Jenkyns, the heart and soul of the small insular Cheshire village resisting the encroachment of the industrial revolution in 1844 England. Also returning as Miss Matty’s dearest friends are Octavia Pole the quirky town gossip (Imelda Staunton – Charlotte Palmer in Sense and Sensibility 1995), the eccentric Mrs. Forrester who dresses her prized cow in flannel pajamas (Julia McKenzie – the eponymous Miss Marple), the self elevated town aristocrat Mrs. Jamieson (Barbara Flynn – Miss Browning in Wives and Daughters) and the dotty but well intentioned Miss Tomkinson (Deborah Findlay – Miss Phoebe in Wives and Daughters). Here is brief synopsis of the first episode from the good folks at PBS:

New life is charmingly apparent in Cranford as Matty Jenkyns enjoys sharing her home with Tilly, the daughter of her maid Martha and carpenter Jem Hearne. Familiar faces including Miss Pole, Mrs. Forrester and Mrs. Jamieson surround Miss Matty in a loving community. Some new faces have arrived as well — Mrs. Bell, her daughter Peggy and son Edward. Mr. Buxton and his son William have returned to town after years away. Young William eagerly aspires to be an engineer, while his father is grieving the loss of his wife. The railway has crept closer to Cranford, but has been halted several miles outside the village. For it to move any further, Lady Ludlow would have to sell part of her land. Captain Brown is determined to make progress for the railway, but meets resistance from the village residents. An unexpected and alarming shift signals yet more change in store for Cranford. Can Matty and the women of Cranford muster support for what inevitably awaits?

Viewers who enjoyed the first six hour mini-series of Cranford last season on Masterpiece Classic will recognize the return of several familiar characters: Martha (Claudie Blakley), Captain Brown (Jim Carter), Sir Charles Maulver (Greg Wise) and Lady Ludlow (Francesca Annis) among many others. New additions rounding out this stellar British cast are William Buxton (Tom Hiddleston) and Peggy Bell (Jodie Whittaker) who offer a new romance in the village for the elders to object too.

Return to Cranford aired in the UK in December, 2009 to much acclaim by critics and strong viewer ratings. It was produced by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin who brought us such classics period dramas as Pride and Prejudice 1995, Emma 1996 and Wives and Daughters 1999. Since the BBC has feigned bonnet fatigue and will not be producing any more period dramas in the immediate future, we must hold fast to this last effort and enjoy it why it lasts. Return to Cranford airs on January 10th and 17th at 9:00 – 10:30 pm eastern on PBS. (check your local listings) Enjoy!

Did you miss the reprise of Cranford that concluded on Sunday, January 3rd? Watch all three episodes of Cranford online at the Masterpiece website until January 10th.

Image courtesy © BBC Worldwide 2010 for MASTERPIECE