A study in contrasts between rural southern England and industrial northern England. The protagonist is the daughter of a parson whose religious doubts have forced him to resign his Hampshire living and to move his family to an industrial manufacturing town in Darkshire.
In North and South, a classic love story in the style of Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell paints a grim picture of the mill town--Milton. The reluctant romance between Margret and John Thornton parallels the relationship between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. Mr. Thornton shares the cool, yet passionate reserve with Mr. Darcy. Margaret is much like Elizabeth in that she is confident and independent. The audience is privy to Mr. Thornton's overwhelming passion that is, unfortunately, unrequited until the end of the novel. We must sit back and watch Mr. Thornton's pain and jealous consume him when Margaret is thought to have had a scandalous relation with a mysterious man. While their journey towards love takes at least two years on Margaret's side, there is a lack of exploration of new love once they finally confess. I was left craving the more intimate and albeit gushy qualities typical to the romance genre. Margaret does not realize her affection for Mr. Thornton until the last few pages of the novel. Though this is traditional in this time period, I found myself wanting more. Nevertheless, the story is filled with action and there are enough subtle glances and brushing of hands to keep the romance lover entertained.
If you do not wish to tackle the novel, might I suggest the lovely mini-series that BBC produced. Richard Armitage plays a dashing Mr. Thornton, while Daniela Deby-Ashe plays a determined Margret.