North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – The things I liked

I never recommend people to read books for the sake of it. You have to want to read the book and enjoy the genre. If you like romances, enjoy history and enjoy classics and haven’t yet read North and South then I would recommend it.


It’s funny that, because I write books, people often think I am very well-read. I am often asked, ‘Have you read ***?” and I find myself regularly replying, ‘No.’

To-Be-Read List


It’s not that I don’t like being asked these sorts of questions. When I hear suggestions it always adds to my to-be-read list which shadows me like a great hulking elephant daily, and I love learning about new novels I haven’t heard of. However, I do always feel a certain amount of guilt. Not just guilt, but a desire to sit down that instant and read a novel in a day. Ah, for the times when I would read through the night until 7/8am to finish a good book!

Should writers read?

Writers should read - Philippa Jane Keyworth

I guess the guilt comes from the knowledge that as a writer I should always be reading. Writers should always be reading, because writers will never be perfect, we are always learning, our writing is always evolving, not just with extra knowledge but as we travel through life.

The desire to read

Then the other half of me is battling with the feeling that I want to be reading. I want to be curled up with a book being sucked into another world and forget where I’m sitting, that I have my own life, maybe even my own name!

When I was young…

I remember reading as a kid. I would read when I was supposed to be asleep, and because I didn’t want to get caught I would push the curtains a little way back in my bedroom and read by the light of the moon. Perhaps that’s why my migraines first started…worth it.

I miss that. Then again, I think a lot of it is down to me putting down the TV controller and choosing to read instead. With that in mind, I recently finished North and South which I naughtily put down a while ago.

Reading the classics

I have always been quite a slow reader. I used to be embarrassed about it, maybe I still am a little, but I just need to remember in those moments that reading is for enjoyment (I can be a hard task-master). Anyway, when it comes to classics I seem to take quite a while, and I wouldn’t say (depending upon the classic) that it’s always easy, page-turning reading. Sometimes it’s a bit of a slog, but I will say that, when I get to the end of a classic, I’m almost always glad I’ve read it.


That’s how I feel about North and South. I’m glad I read it. It wasn’t a book that sucked me in so I completely forgot my surroundings – that’s probably because I suffer from a writer-history brain which is analysing a lot – however, I am so glad I read it.

Things I liked about North and South:

I’ve always liked the TV adaptation – I mean, who wouldn’t like Richard Armitage in a dress shirt? Prue Batten will back me up on that one – but it was good to finally read the book. Here are the things I liked:

  1. The portrayal of the working class, merchant class and upper class
  2. The faults in Margaret Hale and Mr Thornton’s characters
  3. The spiritual element – it says a lot about Mrs Gaskell
  4. The sentence structure
  1. It’s brilliant reading something by a writer of the time, it makes for interesting reading when you realise that their opinions of their own class and those around them are written in the book. She also challenges each classes view of the other. Gaskell manages to look at the woes and limitations of each class and then slowly help her characters to understand more about each other. I don’t want to ruin it if you’re going to read it so I won’t say more, but the social commentary in itself makes it worth reading
  2. I like that Margaret and Thornton both have their faults – it’s always so much more realistic and it’s interesting how their faults are related to where and how they grew up, their class and their family
  3. I wasn’t expecting this. I probably should have been as Gaskell was married to a Unitarian minister. The way she writes about faith in the novel is particularly delicate and it was an unexpected and enjoyable aspect. She doesn’t pretend to preach to any of her characters, nor fully understand/explain how their faith develops, but you see it having a subtle effect throughout the novel – another interesting aspect of the time, especially as a few of the characters allude to the Rise of Doubt in the era
  4. Didn’t realise this one until I picked up another book. I started reading a modern book and, although I’m enjoying it, I hadn’t really appreciate the smooth, beauty of Gaskell’s sentence construction. That woman writes like water moves and having changed to a much more modern, clunkier sentenced book, I’m really appreciating her

I never recommend people to read books for the sake of it. You have to want to read the book and enjoy the genre. If you like romances, enjoy history and enjoy classics and haven’t yet read North and South then I would recommend it.

I got North and South free on my Kindle here.

P.s. I was forcing myself to finish it before re-watching the BBC adaptation so now I’ve finished…



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