One of her later books. Although short still a very charming read. As with other of her books it is beautifully written and paints a clear picture of pastoral England in the 19th century. The strength of the novel lies in the characters that Gaskell creates and although they are not all completely likeable the facets of human nature that each character represents are clear to see. As with previous novels morality plays a big part.
Although not a great deal actually happens in the novel as a reader I found myself caring about a number of the characters and the final outcome of the book. Paul, as the story teller is a likeable if gullible chap easily led by an older and more glamorous friend and superior. Phyllis as the namesake of the book manages to be both good and likeable without appearing wishy-washy while her father the Minister is the sort of gentleman you wish still existed today.
All in all although not one of her most well known books I would say it was well worth the bother of reading and if you are a fan of Elizabeth Gaskell books I cannot see that the book will fail to please.
By Blodwyn Pigs Might Fly
I've just watched the last episode of BBC1's excellent adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North and South. I was wondering if anyone on here has read the book and, if so, how much was lost for the TV version? I sensed quite a lot, as time passed in a flash at times: one minute Mr Hale was happy in Oxford, the next he was dead, then Margaret was leaving Milton, then she was in London, then she was in Helston, then she was back in Milton. There were four deaths of significant characters in Episode 3 alone - they were dropping like flies towards the end.
Also, does anyone know if the fact that Manchester was renamed Milton was Mrs G's little joke? The phrase "Dark Satanic Mills" comes from William Blake's poem, usually called Jerusalem when sung, but whose real name is Milton.
This novel is set in 1830s Manchester, at the time when the Trades Union movement was just starting.
Mary Barton is the motherless daughter of a mill worker who has been 'laid off' after a fire at the mill. He is involved in fighting for workers rights.
Mary has her head turned by the mill owners son, and turns her back on her honest working-man sweetheart. Following a confrontation between the two men over Mary, the mill owners son is murdered. Mary's suitor is arrested, as circumstantial evidence points to his guilt.
Mary now realises that she loves him, and although she discovers who the killer is, a greater loyalty means that she must prove Jem's innocence without betraying the real perpetrator.
The plot veers towards the melodramatic, and the writing is a little heavy going, but as a sample of a classic Northern "trouble at t'mill" 19th century social commentary, you can't get more typical!
This book sat on my bookshelf for years, and I am so grateful to the BBC's serialisation for prompting me to read it at last.
Originally published in parts for Dicken's Household Worlds it describes the personalities and doings of a small market town through the eyes of Mary Smith, a one-time resident and frequent visitor.
The social elite of the town are a group of middle aged women. Men are few, being either dead or away on business, so that any that do make an appearance are subject to much interest and speculation. Cranford and its inhabitants are a bit behind the times, genteel and, if a little censorious, well-meaning and kindly.
Mary's anecdotes of the small concerns of the main characters (Miss Jenkyns, Miss Matty, Miss Pole) and their friends and acquaintances are mainly amusing, and sometimes downright funny, so that when the occasional disaster or small tragedy occurs the contrast is quite moving.
There is a huge coincidence, so loved of many Victorian writers, which helps bring a satisfactory conclusion to the story. It is a convention I enjoy quite as much as the original readers, and it in no way spoils a story from this period for me.
Cranford has been one of the most enjoyable books I have read this year.
Elizabeth Gaskell's last, and unfinished, novel centres on Molly Gibson, a doctor's daughter living in the country town of Hollingford, whose life changes dramatically when she learns she is to have a new stepmother in the beautiful but affected Mrs Kirkpatrick. Molly's anguish is partially relieved when she is introduced to her new stepsister Cynthia, but her love for the beautiful Cynthia soon causes problems for her, particularly when she gets entangled in Cynthia's secrets and when Molly's friend Roger Hamley falls for Cynthia's charms.
Like North and South, morality and secrets play a part in this novel, though it's far less didactic and preachy. There's a lot of charm here, and the characters are well drawn and interesting. Aside from the sweet-natured yet passionate Molly, Squire Hamley, who has a good heart for all his bluster, is also wonderful. I also enjoyed Mr Gibson, whose dislike of sentimentality conceals a tender devotion to his daughter, and who also has a wonderfully sarcastic wit. Steady, dependable Roger is also very interesting, where he might have been dull, and even the willful Cynthia has surprising depth to her character.
While the book is unfinished, it's almost there. Gaskell had only a chapter to write before her death and we know how it's meant to end. Even though it's not technically finished, it's still a very satisfying read indeed. Excellent stuff.