North and South :: Book Review

Every once in a while I read something that is so good it makes my heart pound with excitement. I find myself resisting the urge to stand on top of a roof top and yell “This Novel is Amazing, Read it Right Now”. In 2014, I read many good books, but not one of them made me swoon. It is only January of 2015. I am barely digging into my second read and already I can feel the wow! affect. Let’s hope this a good omen for the rest of the year. The novel that I am talking about is called North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Written in 1855 it combines several unexpected elements that I wouldn’t imagine would work together. A soft schmaltzy love story like Pride and Prejudice, only better, much much better. With a sensitive social commentary about society of the time. An intelligent discussion about the struggle between the rich and poor, that considers the point of view of all the sides. Male vs. feminine. Industry vs. nature. The narrative is rich with complexity between human relations across all these boundaries. In one case the relationship between a servant and her employer takes unexpected turns. Yet every bit of it felt honest. “This is the work of somebody with a keen observation” I kept thinking to myself as I read. I felt riveted most of the way. Each character is portrayed in layers as to make you feel them breathing next to you as you read. Each chapter is started with an excerpt from a poem which added to the magical feeling of the novel. There is a wealth of references to other works of literature through out. For example, A story from the Arabian Nights is used to clarify a situation. Tales from the Alhambra Palace are mentioned in a different context. I found all these tidbits enjoyable. My favorite part is the fact that the story feels rooted in reality yet maintains a sense of optimism. There is no canned happy ending that will remind you of “You know who”. Rather beauty that acknowledges human suffering.

An author that looks with open eyes, yet maintains a sense of optimism.

I am inspired

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