There was a time when I finally finished all of Jane Austen's books (twice) and I suddenly didn't know where to turn next. I loved reading about dances, and witty banter, and most importantly, Society with a capital S. After getting stuck in a long reading rut, I stumbled upon North and South, and despite the lack of dances, I found beautiful writing, memorable friendships, and a fair amount of tempestuous romance. This book is more political and industrial than my Austen-norm, but it was just the right book for my fix. I found myself sucked into the troubling world of cotton factories, and unjust class prejudices. Margaret Hale has now become one of my favorite heroines. She's pulled out of her comfortable country lifestyle and thrown into this busy working environment, and we are reminded that there are two sides to every story.— Leah
North and South draws on Gaskell's own experiences of the poverty and hardship of life in the industrial north of England. Her heroine, Margaret Hale, is taken from the wealthy south by her nonconformist minister father, to live in a fictional northern town. The stark differences are explored through Margaret's abrupt change in circumstance, and her sympathetic reaction to the plight of the northerners. She comes into conflict with a local mill owner who proposes marriage to her. The two undergo a series of misunderstandings and changes of heart before they are reunited.