Throwback Thursday: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell


Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

This week’s pick is North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

northWhat I thought:

This book has it all: class conflict, politics, religion, women’s rights and passion! It makes you think, it makes you reflect on what was and it makes you ponder how we got from there to where we are now. We smile with them, we cry with them.

North and South (originally called Margaret Hale, after the principal character, until Charles Dickens made Gaskell change it) starts with a little rose-covered cottage in the countryside in the south of England where Margaret Hale lives with her Pastor Father, her mother, and their servants. Margaret loves the outdoors; she loves to sketch nature and spends a carefree and idyllic youth milling around the land and helping neighbours with various acts of charity. Towards the end of Margaret’s teens, her father announces that he has abandoned the church and because of this the whole family is uprooted to Milton-Northern (apparently based on Gaskell’s hometown of Manchester) to start again.

Milton is an industrial town in the north of England and not only is the landscape the polar opposite of Margaret’s hometown of Helstone, with factories, smoke, noise, and pollution, but also the townsfolk are quite different from those she is used to. I found this very interesting, and this is why I think Dickens was absolutely right to make Gaskell change the title: there is still a divide even today between the north and the south in England, although not on the same scale as back in the Victorian era, no doubt. I am from the north of England (Yorkshire) and northerners, even today, have a reputation for speaking their mind and being somewhat brash. We are also known for being friendly and open, whereas southerners are thought of as being unfriendly (even rude) and looking down their noses at northerners. These are all stereotypes, you understand, but there is no smoke without fire, as they say.

The story centres around the town of Milton and, in my opinion, the actual town is the protagonist, rather than Margaret Hale. Margaret is the voice of the book and it is through her eyes that we see this new world that she inhabits; we see her eyes open to the poverty and suffering of her townsfolk, the difference between those who have and those who have not, but it is Milton who is the largest character.

Margaret quickly befriends a local man, Nicholas Higgins, who is a mill worker and struggling to bring up his two daughters, Betsy and Mary, after his wife’s death. Bessy is gravely ill from “fluff” which Margaret discovers is a result of working in one of the factories and she is appalled by the conditions that this family and others around the Higgins’ have to live in. She takes it out on John Thornton, a self-made businessman and mill owner and who is also a pupil of her father (he is studying literature with him) and when the workers start to revolt and strike against the mill-owners she believes that Mr. Thornton has done wrong by his workers. Mr. Thornton is a proud man, and although he is in love with Margaret, he knows that he will never be good enough for her and he is aware of Margaret’s dislike and contempt for him and his ways but he cannot help falling passionately in love with her. When the riots occur at the factory Margaret shields him with her own body when they start to throw things at him and afterwards he confesses his love for Margaret which horrifies her as she has acted upon charity and would have done the same for anyone.

The move to Milton and change of scenery and circumstances affect the whole family very badly, especially Margaret’s mother, Mrs. Hale, whose health is continuously failing her. Margaret, knowing that her mother doesn’t have long left to live, gets in touch with her brother Frederic (who is a family secret as Frederic is a  former officer of the Navy and is in hiding and wanted for having been the ringleader of a mutiny). His return would cost him his life, but  Margaret takes the risk for her mother’s sake and writes him a letter begging him to return as soon as possible. Frederic arrives and spends some time with his beloved family, but has to leave almost immediately as he is terrified of being discovered. Mr. Thornton sees him & his sister saying their goodbyes at the station and takes them for lovers. That is the first time that Margaret realizes she cares about the possible loss of his good opinion of her and fears that she is now falling in love with him just at the time when she believes that he is falling out of love with her.

Another sad and unforeseen event takes Margaret back to London to stay with her cousin Edith and her family, but she doesn’t relalise that Mr. Thornton is going through a financial crisis that is about to change his world too. Now you need to read it yourself to find out what happens!


I believe this book to be vitally important to understanding how far we have come today in such a short period of time; after all it was only written 160 years ago. But more than that, for me, it is also a fantastic psychological study of human nature and behaviour and shows us how little that changes over the years: we still have strikes, rebellion, politics change very little, people still love and despair and are proud and passionate – that doesn’t change.

For anyone who loves Victorian novels, social commentary, history in the making and love stories – this is for you!


Has anyone else read this book? What did you think?



The Classics Club

5 years to read the classics

A blog I love (and only discovered a few months ago) called A Room of One’s Own has decided to start a Classics Club and I am LOVING this idea!

The rules are pretty flexible but basically you have to list 50 or 75 or 100 classic books that you want to read in the next 5 years (these can be changed at any time – which is great for me ‘cos I am fickle ;)) and you have 5 years to read them. There are so many classics that I really want to read and I am loving the timeframe as it means I don’t have to panic-read them all this year (or fall off the wagon as I don’t think it will be do-able).

Jillian (A Room of One’s Own) has also set up a private group on Goodreads for all those who are joining in the Classics Club to share links and posts and reviews etc.

So after much thought and deliberation, here is my (initial) list of books I want to read. I have gone for sixty as that equals one per month for the next 5 years which I think should be more than do-able.



  1700’s (4)

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole

Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos

The Monk by Matthew Lewis

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe



  1800’s (31)

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Jude The Obscure by Thomas Hardy

The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

Sylvia’s Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

The Beth Book by Sarah Grand

Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Cousin Bette by Honore de Balzac

Germinal by Emile Zola

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

The Odd Women by George Gissing

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas

Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope

Can you Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope

Armadale by Wilkie Collins

Hunger by Knut Hamsun

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Esther Waters by George Moore

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald

Complete Short Fiction by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde



  1900’s (25)

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Where Angels Fear to Tread by E M Forster

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

The Grass is Singing by Doris Lessing

The Mad Ache by Francoise Sagan

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Vet’s Daughter by Barbara Comyns

The Distance Between Us by Dorothy Whipple

Mariana by Monica Dickens

Justine by Lawrence Durrell

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

Daniel Martin by John Fowles

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

  Will you be joining us?

  Any of the ones above an absolute mus-read-right-now?

A winner and “A bientot”

And the winner is…

Thank you for all of you who entered the latest Literary Giveaway Blog Hop; I hope that, even though you haven’t won, I may have convinced you to give either The Mayor of Casterbridge, Little Women or North and South a read.

Anyway, as always, there can only be one winner so congratulations to:



From Wordsmithonia

Ryan has chosen North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell and said in his comment that his friend has been trying to get him to read it for years, so I really hope you enjoy it, Ryan 🙂


And now I’ll say goodbye until next week as I am about to jump on a plane to Paris for 4 days. I cannot WAIT! It was part of my 40th birthday present from last year from Mr Whisperer and he has also given me permission to spend as long as I like in Shakespeare & Co (probably my favourite bookshop in the whole world) and have a little (ahem) spending spree. See you next week with my brand new purchases 🙂


Au revoir!



The Literary Giveaway Blog Hop

Welcome to the fourth literary giveaway blog hop hosted by Judith at Leeswammes where there are a whole buncg of blogs giving away books! Hurrah! The last ones were a great success with lots of blogs joining in the fun and this year there are even more (make sure you pop over to see who else is giving lovely books away). What better way to start the weekend than to have a little mosey at all those lovely books being given away and trying to win some (or all) of them! Good luck!


The Rules

Please pick ONE of the following books and tell me why you would like to read that one in the comments box below. The winner will be picked by on 22nd February (at 8am GMT – sorry I have to finish in the morning but I am going on holiday that day so I won’t be around to pick later on). This giveaway is open internationally and I will send you a brand shiny new copy from either Amazon or The Book Depository.

I have selected three books that I have really enjoyed in recent months and hope you will too. This time I’m going with the classics:


Book #1

The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

“When I began this book I have to admit that I didn’t think the three words I’d be using to describe it would be drama, excitement and intrigue.” You can read my full review here.


Book #2

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“Think of it like a tonic or a soothing balm on your frazzled nerves. Lovely.” You can read my full review here.


Book #3

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

This book has it all: class conflict, politics, religion, women’s rights and passion! It makes you think, it makes you reflect on what was and it makes you ponder how we got from there to where we are now. We smile with them, we cry with them.” See my full review here.



Now pop along to all these other lovely blogs and see what else you can snap up. Good luck! 🙂

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Curiosity Killed The Bookworm
  3. Lit Endeavors (US)
  4. The Book Whisperer
  5. Rikki’s Teleidoscope
  6. 2606 Books and Counting
  7. The Parrish Lantern
  8. Sam Still Reading
  9. Bookworm with a view
  10. Breieninpeking (Dutch readers)
  11. Seaside Book Nook
  12. Elle Lit (US)
  13. Nishita’s Rants and Raves
  14. Tell Me A Story
  15. Living, Learning, and Loving Life (US)
  16. Book’d Out
  17. Uniflame Creates
  18. Tiny Library (UK)
  19. An Armchair by the Sea (UK)
  20. bibliosue
  21. Lena Sledge’s Blog (US)
  22. Roof Beam Reader
  23. Misprinted Pages
  24. Mevrouw Kinderboek (Dutch readers)
  25. Under My Apple Tree (US)
  26. Indie Reader Houston
  27. Book Clutter
  28. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (US)
  29. Lizzy’s Literary Life
  30. Sweeping Me
  1. Caribousmom (US)
  2. Minding Spot (US)
  3. Curled Up With a Good Book and a Cup of Tea
  4. The Book Diva’s Reads
  5. The Blue Bookcase
  6. Thinking About Loud!
  7. write meg! (US)
  8. Devouring Texts
  9. Thirty Creative Studio (US)
  10. The Book Stop
  11. Dolce Bellezza (US)
  12. Simple Clockwork
  13. Chocolate and Croissants
  14. The Scarlet Letter (US)
  15. Reflections from the Hinterland (N. America)
  16. De Boekblogger (Europe, Dutch readers)
  17. Readerbuzz (US)
  18. Must Read Faster (N. America)
  19. Burgandy Ice @ Colorimetry
  20. carolinareti
  21. MaeGal
  22. Ephemeral Digest
  23. Scattered Figments (UK)
  24. Bibliophile By the Sea
  25. The Blog of Litwits (US)
  26. Kate Austin
  27. Alice Anderson (US)
  28. Always Cooking up Something

Victorians Challenge 2012

Men judge us by the success of our efforts. God looks at the efforts themselves*

*by Charlotte Bronte


I didn’t do any challenges last year and I promised myself I wouldn’t this year either as when I have done them in the past I have found that they can sometimes feel like homework and that I “have” to read something. However, being a massive fan of Victorian literature, I have been eyeing up this one, hosted by Laura’s Reviews for some time and I have decided to give it a go.


Here are the rules:

1. The Victorian Challenge 2012 will run from January 1st to December 31st, 2012. You can post a review before this date if you wish.

2. You can read a book, watch a movie, or listen to an audiobook, anything Victorian related that you would like. Reading, watching, or listening to a favorite Victorian related item again for the second, third, or more time is also allowed. You can also share items with other challenges.

3. The goal will be to read, watch, listen, to 2 to 6 (or beyond) anything Victorian items.

So, knowing how rubbish I am at sticking to plans and lists, I have decided not to give myself a huge goal but to say that I will read six this year and then just keep going if I fancy more. Seeing as I have almost finished two so far this year, it’s looking pretty possible.

Here are some of the books / authors I would like to read this year. Obviously, I won’t get to them all but a girl gotta have options :):


1) The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (already read)

2) The Complete Short Fiction by Oscar Wilde (almost finished)

3) Armadale by Wilkie Collins

4) Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

5) Something by Dickens (I’m thinking either David Copperfield, Oliver Twist or Little Dorritt at the moment)

6) Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

7) More books by Thomas Hardy (whom I have fallen in love with) like Jude the Obscure, Far From the Madding Crowd or The Woodlanders

8) Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

9) Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackaray


I wasn’t sure if non-Brits would be included at first but Laura (in her post) has included authors such as Mark Twain and Louisa May Alcott so I’m hoping it’s OK to include some other nationalities like the French and Russian for example. If so then I really want to read:

1) Cousin Bette by Honor Belzac

2) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

3) Bel Ami by Guy de Maupassant

4) Germinal by Emile Zola (already started)

5) Hunger by Knut Hamsun (Norwegian)


And if I have time after that little lot I would also like to read some non-fiction like finish Claire Tomalin’s biography of Charles Dickens and also London Labour and the London Poor by Henry Mayhew.


  Are there any out of this little lot that I should be reading before the others?



Bookish Gifts

 I must have been a good girl this year

After regulsarly complaining that I don’t get bookish gifts for birthdays or Christmas (people assume that I can’t possibly want more when I already have so many – oh but I do!!!), this year I haven’t done too badly.

From my mum and dad I got a lovely book with short Christmas stories by various different authors (both past and present) and a gorgeous address book with quotes about reading (of which I shall be posting some soon) and also a pack of bookmarks (one can never have too many).








From my lovely cousin Sara and her family I got Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters which I have been wanting to read for ages as I loved North and South and her Gothic Tales. I also got a note book and a journey planner which I love as we go away a lot and I can now start planning my reading about the places we go:

I am a member for an online group  in Goodreads (there are 15 of us – 2 Brits, one Australian, one Candian and the rest Amreicans) and we have been really close since getting to know each other on one of the larger groups on Goodreads and setting up our own group aside from that about 4 years ago. Every year we do a Secret Santa where we make a list of 5 books each that we really want and then one of the partners of the group send out who has who so it’s a secret to us all and then we send out our gifts. This year we couldn’t open before Christmas as mine and one other package went missing and we were waiting for them to arrive. My Secret Santee, the wonderful Jen from USA, was so worried that mine hadn’t turned up that she sent me another package (with 2 books in it!) and the very next day the first package turned up so I ended up getting three books off my list! We had the grand unveiling last night where we all go online together and open them and it’s really good fun – everybody ripping open their parcels and posting little comments and refreshing to see what other people have put. My husband rolled his eyes when I told him how much fun it is; maybe you just have to be a book-nerd to understand the excitement 😉

Anyway, the fabulous Jen sent me Hunger by Knut Hamsun, Armadale by Wilkie Collins and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. I also got a book bag and two bookmarks! I love them all. I have been very spoilt!

And finally…

No Christmas is complete without a little treat for oneself 😉

I have almost finished The Mayor of Casterbridge and it is shaping up to be one of my all-time favourites. And I couldn’t resist the Oscar Wilde Complete Short Fiction for reasons I shall explain when I post about it.

Did Santa visit your house too?

Blogging plans for 2012

I have noticed something…

…I am rubbish at making plans. OK, not strictly true – I am great a making plans, just rubbish at sticking to them.

After a very murderous 2011, I have an urge for something a little gentler right now and I plan to raid my own shelves in 2012 and read some of what I actually own. This year I have had the absolute best fun reading about serial killers and detectives and crime fiction was all I craved for a long time: I will still be reading crime fic in 2012 as it is one of my favourite genres but at the moment I am craving books that have been sat on my shelves and whispering my name for years.

So, knowing full well that these best-laid plans will fall by the way-side by around mid January, let’s have a little fun pretending for now:


  Plan #1 – The Victorians

I am dying to get back to the Victorian classics and have read Little Women and Oscar Wilde’s Complete Short Fiction over Christmas. These are also some authors that I would like to read more of in the new year.

Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre and Villette are two of my favourite books of all time and so this year I’d like to read Shirley.

Thomas Hardy

I have only read Tess of the D’Urbervilles and think it’s about time I read some more. I am thinking The Mayor of Casterbridge and Jude the Obscure first.

Charles Dickens

This Master of the Tome has always been slightly daunting to me (despite me loving Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol) but this year I am determined to read at least one more of his and on my hit list are David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and The Old Curiosity Shop.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

I absolutely loved Lady Audley’s Secret and have heard great things about Aurora Floyd so that will be next. I just love Victorian sensational novels.

Elizabeth Gaskell

I loved North and South and my cousin bought me a copy of Wives and Daughters for Christmas which I have heard great things about.

Wilkie Collins

I have only read The Woman in White so it is high time I picked up more of Collins’ work and next up are Moonstone and Armadale.



  Plan #2 – The French

I love reading books set in France or by French authors. At the end of February I am going to Paris for 4 days so I plan to read some Paris-based books before I go to get me in the mood:

Emile Zola

I have only read Thérèse Raquin and I am about ¼ of the way through Germinal but I would also like to read The Belly of Paris or The Ladies Paradise this year.

Victor Hugo

I am thinking about joining in the year-long read-a-long of this book, hosted by Kate at Kate’s Library as I have wanted to read it for years and it does seem like a good way to do this, but like I said, I am crap at sticking to plans so let’s see…

Two other authors I would like to read are Ernest Hemingways’ A Moveable Feast and George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London and some shorter stories by Guy de Maupassant.



  Plan #3 – Authors I want to

I have a habit that goes like this: I read a book by an author, I love it, I buy a tonne of other books by that same author, they sit on my shelves waiting to be picked up.

So, with that in mind, plan #3 entails taking said books down from said shelves, dusting them off and actually reading them. Authors include:

Edith Wharton

Daphne du Maurier

Margaret Atwood

Sarah Waters

John Steinbeck

Cormack McCarthy

Agatha Christie

Jose Saramago



  Plan #4 – Authors I want to read for the very first time

I also have a habit of buying books by authors I think I should be reading but never get round to. Yes, I’m looking at you

Doris Lessing

Ernest Hemingway

China Melville

Amoz Oz



  Plan #5 – Books I have waited to read for far too long

There are certain books that have been on my wishlist for reading for so long that I almost cringe out of guilt when I hear them mentioned. Fortunately, two of them are being read this year in my on-line book club: Gone with the Wind and The Grapes of Wrath. Others that look at me longingly from my shelves are: Shantaram, Shogun and My Antonia.



  Plan #6 – Review Copies

I successfully managed to avoid the great publisher/blogger debate that was doing the rounds last month, and I still intend to. What I will say is that when an unexpected (or expected) package lands on my doormat I still get that feeling like it’s my birthday and Christmas rolled into one. There is not much more exciting than ripping the packaging off something book-shaped. Having said that, I do regularly get overwhelmed with the number of books that drop through my letterbox and my guilt at not reading them all still hounds me, but this year I have decided that I want to concentrate more on the books I already have rather than spending the majority of my reading time on proof copies. It’s a tough one really as despite the fact that  a) I don’t get the time to read them all and b) abandom some pretty quickly, two of the unsolicited copies that arrived at my house this year (and to be honest, I may not have picked up myself in a shop) ended up on my top 10 of 2011 list.

So, there are my current plans for 2012. This may change. In fact, this probably will change. Afterall, when something new and shiny lands on the doormat, what’s a girl to do? 😉



  Do you have blogging plans for 2012?