North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my top five favorite novels, and this week, Gentle Reader, I have the privilege of teaching it to one of my classes. I love teaching novels I love, because it’s important to share the joy and wonder of good books.
But I was thinking about precisely why I love this book so much. The romance, yes. I’m a sucker for a good romance, and this one has it in spades. Its connection to so many other industrial novels or social problem novels of the mid-nineteenth century makes it fascinating.
But also? I just love the way Elizabeth Gaskell writes.
She’s a fine writer, and a smart one, too, in that she knows how to plot and how to write a story. Coming off of Vanity Fair, which is another Smart Book ™ but smart in different ways from North and South–its use of a narrator for thematic purposes, its “Novel without a Hero”ness–I find Gaskell’s novel an easier read than Thackeray’s. It’s more compelling, I suppose, the story of Margaret moving from the pastoral South to the industrialized North, finding love and herself along the way.
What’s your favorite Victorian novel, Friends?