When it comes to period romances, nothing can beat the popularity of Pride and Prejudice. It's everyone's favourite. But then as I got older, I've come to appreciate the maturity given to characters of Persuasion and others alike. Here Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South falls under.
North and South is rather new to me, only this year, I think, or late 2010 when I came across it. I was looking for something to watch over the weekend, a drama series because I was in the mood for that. I searched for the best British mini-series and N&S took the top spot in several lists. Found it on youtube but the start was rather slow and I got bored. It took a second viewing of the 2004 BBC drama's first episode and a comment advising everyone to be patient with it to make me finally sit down and watch. It was like watching P&P all over again, but with more social issues thrown in in an industrial setting. I loved it and looked for a copy of the book. There was none I could find here and in Cebu. That was one of my goals when I visited Singapore and with the help of a good friend I bought one.
North and South, the book, was nothing like Austen, though the plots and characters had similarities. For me it felt more raw and expansive, harsh like the setting itself, while Austen's was more polished and personal. But we know that they are from different times, places and purposes.
In N&S you get to know a lot about the characters. Even the ones who make the littlest appearance get a background of some kind. It was also more than the BBC drama, though the TV series is great as it is and the changes made worked for its success. What I liked most about the book were the friendships made and the conversations. There were a lot of social and political debates and discussions that are still relevant today: the gentleman vs. the "true man", Mr. Hale's and Frederick's views on life, religion, conscience, and the morality involved in running a business (when they discussed human rights), in which I kept changing sides. For the most part, I agreed with Margaret, the heroine of the story; however, Mr. Thornton had his points, too, if you consider his character. From what transpired, we can't really judge a person until we fully grasp what he/she goes through: from past experiences, thoughts, to beliefs. No. In fact, I believe I'm not ever allowed to judge.
The only downside of the book for me was that the ending was rushed. I remember checking out how many pages were left when Margaret and Mr. Thornton had their final meeting, and there were only two! But all in all I loved the book, the film and all its layered goodness.
P.S. I mentioned before in my Hobbit post that Richard Armitage will be playing one of the dwarves. Well that's him at the top playing Mr. Thornton. Can't wait to see him in the Hobbit though unrecognizable I'm sure, but hope not. Also, I'm currently watching Being Human, and Mitchell the vampire (Aidan Turner) will be Kili the dwarf. That's another one to look out for.