Tuesday, June 1, 2010

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

Remember that time someone blatantly ripped off Pride and Prejudice, but made Lizzie more annoying and moved the setting to a factory town? I DO! Because it's called North and South, and I just read it er listened to it on the way to and from Florida this weekend. Let's recount the ways this book rips off Jane Austen unabashedly, but with 400 extra pages:
1. The two love interests have bunches of pride. And prejudice. And Elizabeth Gaskell just up and says that. She also says “languid” about every five seconds, even when it's inappropriate (how can you languidly sob? That doesn't make any sense). Margaret languidly regarded Mr. Thornton. Margaret languidly mourns her dead (insert SPOILER ALERT MAJOR MAJOR PPPLLLEEHHH) mother, father, godfather, goldfish. Ok, she doesn't mourn a goldfish, but if she did, she would do it LANGUIDLY.
2. Margaret and Mr. Thornton aka Mr. And Miss. Love Interests have interesting money issues, wherein he is rich and she is poor, but she would never think of marrying him for his money because he is COLD and UNFEELING and VEXING.
3. There's this interesting little scene in the drawing room- where no one ever actually draws- where Mr. Thornton pours out his COLD UNFEELING VEXATIOUS heart to Margaret, telling her of his undying love even though she's a cold hearted snake (look into her eyes, uh oh, she's been telling lies) and SHE goes on to tell him that she wouldn't marry him above any other poor nasty dirty man in the whole town so there! Huh. That sounds familiar. He even says he loves her against his better judgement. Also, I just made a Janet Jackson reference. You must therefore love me.
Anyway, I was really expecting more from this book like oh originality. And a likable heroine. For rizzle, Margaret Hale, despite what the book jackets of the world will tell you, is the most annoying and snobby person I've ever read. She's a cross between Emma and Scarlett O'Hara, except not funny, exciting, strong, or redeemable. Half way through the book she's still all yeah Mr. Thornton's hot business but I don't lliiikkkeee him because he's a traaaddeessmmaaannn even though I'm some poor wench from the country and have no place to judge a titmouse. She also is a big fan of manipulating all the men in her life to do what she wants, which usually involves putting themselves in bodily danger, and then feeling oh so vexed about it. She spends most of the book feeling vexed. I wanted to vex her in the face.
Finally, the ending- after you've invested 530 pages, or 18 hours of listening, is wrapped up in one page. ONE PAGE. Margaret (spoiler) inheritsalotofmoney and then admitsshelovesThornton and he hugsherandsayshernameabunch and THE END thanks for coming folks, pick up your jackets at the door. It's not even a tidy bow, it's like duct tape and spit.
BUT! The rest of the book that doesn't involve the main character is awesome. It's about the clash between the working class and the manufacturing owners in Northern England. Great social commentary and religious commentary. Very smart. Gaskell should stick to being a smart woman with political opinions, and quit trying to be Austen. But she's dead and I can't tell her that, so...yeah.
Two stars out of your mom- and only because of the good bits.



  2. It looks like I’ll be languidly passing on this one. 530 pages is a little too long to spend hoping for some horrible accident to do away with the heroine so the book can go back to the good parts.

  3. I love the Janet Jackson reference! I'm reading Cranford right now, I'm only a few pages into it but can already feel an Austen vibe to it.

  4. Page Turners is right! You are funny! And do I get points for catching the Paula Abdul reference even if I couldn't find the Janet Jackson one?

  5. Hello! I came over to check you out because of your interview over on Page Turners ... and I'm loving what I read! I'm not personally into Dead White Guys but I'm totally into blogs with attitude and snark! : )

  6. Kathy- no, it's Paula Abdul...I was initially going to make a "Miss Jackson if you're nasty" comment, but changed it and didn't change the attribution. Whoopsy!

  7. I also found you through Page Turners and I am seriously in love with your blog. Your blog is what my blog would be...if I was at all funny and original. :) I am in the process of reading a bunch of classics, so I hope you'll stop by!

  8. Hi, I just wanted to let you know that your feature is up on Page Turners today.

  9. I am sad to hear this is a rip off. Thanks for the heads up. It may be why I have started the book but never finished it.

    Love your wit