Thursday, 30 December 2010


Now that I 've had a week to digest and contemplate the novel as a whole, I thought the story a tad unsubstantial
inasmuch that it was a silly
romance concerning
Margaret Hale 's move north
and the perhaps amusing
misunderstandings between
herself and cotton mill owner
John Thornton .

There were good things in
the story which highlighted
the differences in the classes;
and the factory conditions
under which the poor were
expected to work . For me the
vivid description of the
workplace was the best part
of the book . Unfortunately I
think it may have been better
expressed if Gaskell had
created a more educated
character to explain it to the
reader alongside Bessie's
description, which was full of
pathos given her dying ,
consumptive condition .
Although much was made of
the "riot " that too was very
slight and passed over
almost as soon as the
chapter ended .

When I began reading 'North
And South ', I was expecting a
grittier 'Libbie Marsh's Three
Eras', instead I got a middle -
class comedy of manners
wrapped up as a romance .
It was a high standard of
writing as one expects of
Gaskell, it fell in nicely with
the 'condition of England '
novels of the Victorian era,
and silly romance aside , it
gave adequate food for
thought. I 'd give it 7 out of
10 rating or 3 stars out of 5 .


Just completed North And South . What a charming and amusing romance, delightful throughout and a pleasure to

There was the gentle comedy
throughout of Thornton and
Margaret misunderstanding
each other with each
successive chapter which
Gaskell sustained effortlessly.
Much of Gaskell 's charm lies
in the subtlty of her wit and
the sharpness of her satire
which brings a certain
realism to her work which in
the hands of other writers
(for instance Dickens ) would
seem like crude and clowinsh
characatures in a cartoon
world of make -believe.
Margaret Hale was a strong ,
engaging , serious heroine ,
fortunately not flawless in
character and all the more
believable and human for it .
Mr Hale , a man of principle
and conscience was a
complex character , perhaps
much misunderstood for his
actions or inactions ,
whatever the case maybe .
But as it was primarily
Margaret's story, thanfully
Gaskell didn ' t feel the need
to weary the reader with
complex explanations into
the niceties of religious
doctrines and church politics.
There was plenty of light
relief and comedy for the
reader. We laughed along
with the simple- minded
servant Dixon , and her views
on education ( thinking and
reading) and her exaulted
opinion of herself as a
humble lady 's maid and

Also we laughed along with
the humble family of factory
workers the Higgins with
their plain and simple view of
life and the irony of their

Best of all we had the
Thorntons to laugh at - the
busness-minded John, unable
to understand his heart and
women, namely "that
woman" Margaret Hale ; and
that ghastly pair of
Thorntons in anyones side
the fashionable facile Fanny
and her haughty and self -
absorbed mother Mrs
Thornton, the vanity and
vulgarity of both being as
amusing as they were horrid .
In short , a charming
romance, an amusing read
and a diverting romp :o )

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Well my first month and first group read is under my belt. For December the group read chosen was Elizabeth Gaskell's 'North And South'.

North And South is a silly romance and highly amusing due to Gaskell's narraive skills and her level of wit and humour.

Surprisingly it is not really the condition of England story that we have come to expect of Gaskell's novels. There are the obligatory working-class represented by the Higgins family, Milton factory workers, and there are the middle-classes represented by cotton mill owners the Thorntons, the shallow, fashionable Harley Street set with the Shaws, representing London society, and the Hales', the lower middle-class family of the protagonist Margaret Hale.

Margaret has spent the entirety of her teenage years with her maternal aunt Mrs Shaw and her family at Harley Street, London, where she has assumed the role of companion to her cousin Edith. At the start of the story we are just days away from Edith's marriage to Captain Lennox, following which the happy couple move to Corfu, where Lennox's regiment are posted. Margaret returns to her family home a humble Hampshire parsonage in the wooded village of Helstone.

Upon returning home she learns that her vicar father has split with the Church of England, and the family - her parents and herself - will be moving north to the large, expanding industrial town of Milton.

From then on the story concerns itself with a series of misunderstandings between Margaret and John Thornton, a mill owner, who is recieving an education in Greek and Latin from her father, in his new career as a private tutor.

There is no serious examination of Mr Hale's decision to break with the Church of England, and oddly no mention of any church Anglican or otherwise that he is inclined to agree and worship with. As monumental a life-changing move it is for the family it becomes as a side issue to Margaret's blossoming romance, which blossoms at a very slow rate and against any designs of her own.

Anyway, froth and fury aside, it's an absorbing read, highly satirical and very funny. The Higgins' family - in particular Bessie - provide the customary pathos, the bathos coming from faithful family retainer lady's maid Dixon, constantly refering to the good old days in the service of the family of her mistress Mrs Maria Hale née Beresford.

There is a lot of humour derived in the form of Mrs Thornton and her daughter Fanny, mother and sister of the romantic hero John Thornton.

In truth I was expecting something a little more substantial than the light romance North And South is. I had hoped for a grittier Libbie Marsh's Three Eras, an extremely poignant early short story by Gaskell, concerning the lives of Manchester factory workers.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Dorothy Parker


The days will rally, wreathing
Their crazy tarantelle ;
And you must go on
But I 'll be safe in hell .

Like January weather,
The years will bite and smart ,
And pull your bones together
To wrap your chattering
heart .

The pretty stuff you're made
Will crack and crease and
The thing you are afraid of
Will look from every eye .

You will go faltering after
The bright, imperious line ,
And split your throat on
And burn your eyes with
brine .

You will be frail and musty
With peering , furtive head ,
Whilst I am young and lusty
Among the roaring dead .

Dorothy Parker


If I had a shiny gun ,
I could have a world of fun
Speeding bullets through the
Of the folk who give me
pains ;

Or had I some poison gas,
I could make the moments
Bumping off a number of
People whom I do not love .

But I have no lethal weapon -
Thus does Fate our pleasure
step on !
So they still are quick and
Who should be, by rights , in
hell .

Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Reading matter

JUST RETURNED from town where after buying some general groceries from Tesco's, I nipped into Waterstone's to pick up a couple of novels.

A reading group I have joined will tomorrow begin to read and discuss Elizabeth Gaskell's 'North and South' (1855).

Gaskell is one of my favourite writers so I am looking forward to a good read.

Jan, an Aussie, who I met on Goodreads, asked my opinion upon Mark Twain's 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' (1884), which I have never read, but another group which I have joined also are currently reading. She has expressed an interest in my perspective, so while at Waterstone's picked up a copy to read after I have completed North and South.

I've always considered Huck Finn children's literature, so if it proves to be I hope it will be as interesting and exciting as Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' and 'Kidnapped', both of which made excellent adult reading.

Well, now it's time for lunch and the news hour. Good reading, folks! :o)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Thunderball win

I scooped £10 on last night's lottery Thunderball game for matching three numbers.

My 'lucky dip' ticket generated the following sequence:-
10-14-16-23-33/(10 - Thunderball). I matched with the first three in the sequence :o)

Thursday, 25 November 2010


WHILE LINK surfing recently I came across and opened an account at

I tend to read nineteenth century fiction so joined a reading group dedicated to the Victorian period.

They're just coming to the end of Wilkie Collins' hilarious romp 'The Moonstone', which I read around a decade ago. It would mean speed-reading it again if I want to contrbute to any of the discussions, my memory not being that good on incidental details after all this time. Likewise Collins' 'The Woman in White', and Bram Stoker's 'Draculla', both of which I have read and enjoyed immensely.

It would've been interesting to have re-read them as a shared experience.