Book 99:"North and South" by Elizabeth Gaskell
This is a re-read for me, the first time I read it for a Vicorian Lit class. I liked it a lot then. This time around, I loved it! I don't know if it was the absence of school pressure or that I now already know what makes this book so progressive for its time but this time around I was able to absorb much more of the nuance. This book is great for many reasons. It is not only a wonderful love story (along the lines of Pride & Prejudice) but it is also amazing because it shows the two very different mentalites that were gripping England at the time this was written. Gaskell separates them by geographic location. The North is the trade and manufacturing mentality. To them money only means something if it's earned. Your station is based solely on that. As to education, it is mostly pointless to know the classics and history; how will they help you determine the best way to sell and process cotton or to stop the workers going on strike against you? The South is different. You aren't expected to work away your life in such a harsh manner- even when you do decide to work. While fortune is important, it is not everything; connection and esteemed family can often get you everything you need. Gaskell focuses on this contrast of the tradional aristocracy vs the new self-made manufacturers and trade workers of the British Empire. How better to show this by having two different people one from the South and one from the North have an epic love story? The characters of this book are full of depth- very few are one-dimensional. It is very character driven. Read it. I love it. Even if you aren't into love stories, it is a great representation of the growing pains that England was going through.