Tag Archives: north and south

A Layman’s Guide to North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell


Many of you have watched the 2004 BBC production of North and South starring Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe. If you’re like me, you enjoyed it and wanted more. Although the 4-part miniseries is truly long to watch in one sitting, it has so much to love. I’ve watched it many, many times.

But after watching it for the 35th time, I still had questions. What does “I did not notice the color of this fruit” even mean? Did Margaret and Mr. Thornton really meet on the train platform? Seems awful convenient. And did Mr. Thornton truly beat up the smoker employee?

To answer these questions, I turned to the original text, written by Elizabeth Gaskell in 1854. For those of you casual readers, stick to the movie. There is a lot to weed through in the book, and this is one of those texts that could really stop you from reading all together. Although I enjoyed finding answers to my questions, this is not a light read. It’s filled with long passages of social commentary and sometimes even preaching. So this review is less about the book and more about the differences between the book and the movie for those of you who enjoyed the BBC adaption. Still, I don’t wish to diminish Miss Gaskell’s talent in weaving a story, for her text inspired what came to be on screen. So, thank you Elizabeth for giving us something to ponder about.

Things missing from the book, that I loved in the movie:

  • Last train scene…this happens instead in a room alone.
  • London Expedition scene…never happened.
  • Miss Latimer…not in the book. No one is ever in Mr. Thornton’s heart but Margaret.
  • “Look back at me” scene. This is just a little glimpse of what Thornton feels in the book.

Things I did not like about the book vs. what happened in the movie:

  • The Point of View in the novel is all over the place. It is not written in the modern way, where one person’s view is all you see, especially without scene breaks. This is good in one respect because you get to know what Mr. Thornton thought on several occasions and this was fun, but it’s rather tedious for those of us used to single POV books.
  • Margaret is rude to Mr. Thornton without a cause. Perhaps this is why the movie shows Mr. Thornton beating the smoking employee, to give her cause. In the book, it is simply snobbery on her part. He is not seen beating anyone. Margaret and Mrs. Hale are very against workmen and masters. They even have a funny discussion about “factory slang” as they call it after Margaret uses the phrase, “Slack of Work.”

    “Oh momma! Don’t try and make a bugbear of Aunt Shaw…Edith picked up all sorts of military slang from Captain Lennox, and Aunt Shaw never took any notice of it.”
    “But yours is factory slang!”
    “And if I live in a factory town, I must speak factory language when I want it.”

  • Higgins was much more brash and alcoholic. He seemed crazy and drunkard in the book. He’s mean and lashes out at Margaret and Mary. There was even a large section when Margaret brings him to Mr. Hale and they sit trying to talk to him when he’s drunk. This goes on for hours. He is painted as some stupid workman who drinks every time he doesn’t get his way. I much rather like the Higgins in the movie.
  • The “bro-mance” between Higgins and Mr. Thornton is one of my favorite things about the film. In the book it is there, but with much less luster than in the movie.
  • I’m not sure if most people back in these days didn’t know what Unions were all about and the differences between masters and workers, and needed to explanations, but parts of this book read like voting ballot instructions. Dry commentary on the pros and cons run for pages upon pages. This is something romance readers will not enjoy.

Things I liked about the book vs. the movie:

  • From the very beginning, Margaret is the “adult” in the book. When her father decides to leave Hellstone, he asks her to tell her mother “because he can’t bear it” and promptly leaves for the day on rounds. So, it is up to Margaret to break the sad news that they will be moving to Milton. The mother is ailing from the beginning and has been told to go to the sea, but instead they move to Milton. So, it’s not so much that Mrs. Hale hates Milton, only that she has been told and believes she will feel better if she goes to Bath. Margaret is also the adult with the mother. She complains and cries to her, but will never do so to Mr. Hale. What a marriage! A little conversation would have done them well. I don’t like that Maragret has to be the adult, but it explains a lot about the dynamics of their family shown in the film.north_and_south_header__span
  • I love the way Thornton observes Margaret. You can get a sense of his attraction to her and you really see why he loves her. There is one passage in particular when he is watching her serve tea. This is hinted at in the movie when their fingers touch as she hands him the cup. In the book, he is watching a bracelet she has on that keeps falling down. He is amused by and fascinated with her pushing it back up. “There it goes again,” he thinks. And the attentiveness of Mr. Thornton’s gaze in this scene of the movie makes much more sense if you know what he is thinking. Passages such as, “…blinded by his baffled passion” and “he was in the Charybdis of passion” kept me reading.
  • The proposal scene in the book showed much more passion than the movie. Perhaps because it was being written by a woman and the script adjusted through male eyes? These words…

“To one whom I love, as I do not believe man ever loved woman before.”

And after she rejects him, this passage,

“For all his savage words, he could have thrown himself at her feet, and kissed the hem of her garment.”

  • The book proposal is much more reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice. They could be written by the same author, they are so close. Margaret is so full of prejudice against Mr. Thornton that she has placed on him herself because of her close-minded views. Mr. Thornton is a less pride-filled Darcy in his acceptance that Margaret is so much above him, for in his eyes, she is a goddess. At the end of this proposal, before he leaves, to walk-a spurned, angry man-he tells her,

“You look as if you thought it tainted you to be loved by me. Nay, I, if I would, cannot cleanse you from it. But I would not, if I could. I have never loved any woman before: my life has been too busy, my thoughts too much absorbed with other things. Now I love, and will love, but do not be afraid of too much expression on my part.”

Sound familiar?

“Be not alarmed, madam, on receiving this letter, by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments or renewal of those offers which were last night so disgusting to you.” ~ Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

  • Margaret’s description of Mr. Thornton.

“He looks like a person who would enjoy battling every adverse thing he could meet with-enemies, winds, circumstances. The more it rains and blows, the more certain we are to have him.”

  • After Margaret talks to the policeman, and tells her lie, she passes out in the hall. She’s lying there for some time and no one ever notices. I guess this is a comical scene that wouldn’t have done well in the movie, but it did crack me up.
  • Seeing Thornton’s torture. Why do we love to see male characters tortured with their love for us? Because we tend to torture ourselves with loving that we cannot have and we like to see them feeling this same thing!

“She could not care for him, he thought, or else the passionate fervor of his wish would have forced her to raise those eyes.”

”She had such power to move him from his balance.”

  • After Mrs. Hale dies, Mr. Hale is a basket case. In the movie he seems so removed from the occurrence, which brings in some of the book’s attitude about the dad from the beginning, but I liked seeing that he was affected.
  • Not that I would change the movie ending on the train platform, because that was just awesome, but in the book, their last meeting is much different. Margaret, Mr. Thornton, and Henry Lennox are supposed to meet to go over some business, but Henry doesn’t make it.

“No one ever knew why Mr. Lennox did not keep his appointment on the following day. Mr. Thornton came true to his time.”

north-and-south-endingAnd he found only Margaret, leading to the best resolution ever, most of it covered in the movie. But here are some things we missed.

“Her very heart-pulse was arrested by the tone in which Mr. Thornton spoke. His voice was hoarse and trembling with tender passion as he said, “Margaret.”

“He knelt by her side, to bring his face to a level with her ear and whispered out the words, “Take care-if you do not speak-I shall claim you as my own in some strange presumptuous way. Send me away at once if I must go.”

“He laid her arms as they had once before been placed to protect him from rioters. “Do you remember, love? And how I requited you with my insolence the next day?”

Oh…so that’s what that meant. Explanations.

  • In the movie, Mr. Thornton says, “I’d not noticed the color of this fruit.” And then later… “One moment we speak of fruit, the next of love.” This seemed very forced to me. I felt like he brought up the fruit simply so he could say the next words. Well, in the book, this is not how the scene plays out. In fact, nowhere in the proposal scene is fruit or talk of fruit, or thought of fruit. However, I think I know where the script writer was going with this. In the book, when it is discovered by Mr. Thornton that Mrs. Hale is ill, he asks if he can do anything to ease the suffering of his love’s mother. The doctor protests, but at last gives him a crumb…He should buy fresh fruit to send to her. Consuming the fresh fruit, the doctor says, will help her, if just a little. Is this what the script writer was getting at? I have to confess that I wish more of the original proposal scene would have been kept instead of inserting this confusing business about fruit when it was so strained to put in the scene.


  • It is further explained in the book that Mr. Bell is a Milton man…but wants nothing of it. There is no explanation of why Mr. Bell has property in Milton in the movie, but the book explains it quite well.

“Are you not a Milton man yourself?” asked Margaret. “I should have thought you would have been proud of your town.”

“I confess I don’t see what there is to be proud of. If you’ll only come to Oxford, Margaret, I will show you a place to glory in.”

This passage explains a little more about why Mr. Bell and Mr. Thornton are at odds. It is also explained in the book that Mr. Bell wants Margaret as his own and when he finds Thornton has his sights on her, he is not happy.

  • In the book, Mr. Thornton believes the man he sees her out at night with to be Mr. Henry Lennox, her lover, because of what Mr. Bell says. Mr. Bell makes it seem as though Henry and Margaret are together. This adds fire to the dangerous thoughts Thornton has when thinking of that night he saw her by the train with the unknown man. We know that it was her brother, but Mr. Thornton doesn’t find that out until much later when Higgins tells him.
  • Margaret is torn apart by the thought of Mr. Thornton thinking she’s lying for a lover. She wants to tell him, almost does, but Fredrick is still in England and she is scared he will cause him to be caught. She tries to get Mr. Bell to tell Thornton, but he botches it.

So there you have it, the movie-lovers review of a book that inspired the awesome mini-series North and South. Do you agree? Have you read the book? What is your favorite part of the movie? What are your thoughts on the book? Let me know in the comments below.

Top 5 Period Romance Movie Moments You Might Have Missed

emmzAs a romance reader, it’s no doubt you’ve also enjoyed your share of romantic movies. What a wonderful feeling when you discover a rendition of one of your favorite novels that you didn’t know about. True, the actor can never match the Adonis in your head, but still, we watch with bated breath to see if our favorite part was included in the script or unceremoniously left on the cutting room floor.

If you are a Regency romance lover (you know the Lords and Ladies who wore top hats, carried reticules, and went fox hunting circa early 1800’s) then undoubtedly you’ve memorized the lines of the most popular books-turned-movies like Pride and Prejudice and Emma. You might even extend your love to Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Nicholas Nickelby from time to time.

I have to admit, I’m just as much of a period romance geek as the next. The memorable phrases still cause a pleasant ripple to run up my spine.

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” ~ Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice

“I rode through the rain! I’d ride through worse than that if I could just hear your voice telling me that I might, at least, have some chance to win you.” ~Mr. Knightley in Emma

We all know these, but what about those you haven’t encountered yet? I wanted to share five movie moments you might not be aware of. If you have a romance you think I might enjoy that is not listed here, please comment and let me know. I am in just as much need of sustenance as the next romance enthusiast. Beware, these little blurbs will contain spoilers, so if you’re the kind of person who likes to be surprised, I beg you, watch the movies first.

5. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (1999 BBC)

wivesanddElizabeth’s books tend to be about more than the essential love affair. There is often hardship, death, and a clashing of classes. She seemed to want to stand on a soapbox with her novels and yell, “This is how the world is and here is how you should act!” I find her voice so upstanding, righteous, and modern. I mean this all in a good way. She had compassion for those who had hard lives and was (like Jane Austen) the daughter of a minister.

Much of Wives and Daughters is spent with Molly caring for anyone and everyone who needs caring for. She is sent all over the country to those who need her most and she encounters much complaining and fussing over things but doesn’t complain or fuss herself. She falls in love with a man, but is overstepped by her step-sister who is involved in a secret scandal with another man. Not only is this book about intolerance and bigotry, it is also a lesson about gossip and what damage it can cause.

True, the trek to get to this beautiful scene is long and the payoff might not be worth it for some, but when Molly’s man finally falls for her, the connection scene is so great, it outweighs the time she’s spent waiting for him. Much like Persuasion, she has waited while he’s gone overseas and grown into a man who can appreciate her.

The special scene starts when Molly sees Rodger Hamley out of the window. He is going back to Africa and she will not see him for two years. He is standing outside of her home in the rain, waving. He’s not allowed to come up because Molly’s father (the doctor) has barred him visiting her because of a fever in his household that she could possibly catch. He waves one last time and walks away. Molly, caught up in the fear of losing him, runs through the rain to catch him at the carriage house. The carriage pulls away and she knows that she will be waiting yet another two years for him. But from the other side of the courtyard, he calls to her.

“I couldn’t go.”

She runs toward him, but they stand a few yards apart, fearful of the fever and dad’s wrath if she should catch it. They are both being drenched by rain as he asks,

“Molly, dear Molly. Will you be my wife?”

“Yes, yes I will.”


4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (2007 BBC)

naThis story is my favorite of Jane Austen’s, though it doesn’t get as much credit as the others. I love it because although it is a romance, it tells the story of a horror addict, which is dear to my heart. I am also in the midst of a Northanger Abbey modern rewrite, so I watch this movie at least twice a week. I’ve recently found it on YouTube and that version has more scenes than mine on DVD. I do recommend it.

Catherine is a simple country girl who hasn’t seen much in the way of danger or intrigue, but she’s read many novels on the subject. She is a gothic novel enthusiast and has many daydreams of romantic horror happening in her life.

She meets Mr. Tilney, who also enjoys novels and has a great sense of humor. His family welcomes her into their fold, but there is a terrible secret having to do with the death of their mother. Was his father (General Tilney) involved in the final demise of Mrs. Tilney? As Catherine begins to uncover the truth, she is unceremoniously thrown out of their home by General Tilney in the middle of the night. She finds her way home, ashamed of what she’s thought and how she’s acted.

Runner up moment is when they come back from riding horses in the rain. He tries to brush away some dirt on her face, but almost kisses her, until his sister opens the door.

“Look at the state of you!”

This is when I think, “You might have seen us in a better state if you’d just waited a few more minutes!”

Top moment is when Henry comes to tell her he’s left his father’s money behind him so he can marry her. Not only is it a great love proclamation, but also adds a hint of comedy in.

“I told him I felt myself bound to you, by honor, by affection, and by a love so strong that nothing he could do could deter me from…”


“Before I go on, I should tell you, there’s a pretty good chance he’ll disinherit me.”

When he finally asks her to marry him, they kiss so passionately, they fall into the bushes.

3. The Glass Virgin by Catherine Cookson (BBC 1995)

glassvirginThis is one that flew under my radar at time of production because I wasn’t watching these sorts of movies in the 90’s. I recently watched this in its entirety on YouTube and it was such a happy little surprise for me. At two and a half hours, it doesn’t scream high-action, but the payoff is well worth it.

Annabella LaGrange is a little girl whose been brought up in a rich household but is suddenly plunged into poverty by unfortunate circumstances. The love interest in this isn’t the typical gentlemen in fancy dress, he is quite the opposite. As a man of limited means, he makes the most of his life and shows Annabella there are ways to survive, even if you aren’t given the best hand to play. Catherine Cookson tends to weave in darkness and distrust in everything she writes, so you may liken her more to a Bronte than and Austen. There are mean servants, evil deeds, a wicked father, prostitution, and death in The Glass Virgin, but I found it refreshing amongst all the oceans of cookie cutter period pieces we know today. These two go through so much in the course of the movie, by the end, you are cheering when they finally find their own kind of happiness.

There are so many moments in this feature to love like their first kiss and their long awaited wedding night, but my favorite lines are when Annabella says,

“But I thought you said you never wanted to leave here.”

“Ah, but now… if the Devil himself said he was takin’ you down to hell tonight, I’d say to him, ‘Not unless you take me too.’”


2. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (2002 BBC)

dd2Daniel Deronda is a personal favorite of mine about a man who knows nothing of his heritage, yet finds his path by accident, or some would say fate. This story has personal meaning to me as my father’s side has never been revealed to me. I understand what Daniel is going through and the piece of himself that is lost because of no family connections on his mother’s side.

There are a couple of great scenes in this sweeping tale that is moving in more ways than one. It is a story about the love between father and son, son and mother, brother and sister, and between people of the same faith. It is also the story of a woman who seeks to gain riches by marriage and finds only heartache.

When Daniel finds Mirah in the lake, trying to commit suicide, your heart breaks for the sorrow which she has endured. Daniel, never having experienced such hardship finds himself compelled to help her, but it is more than pity that binds him to her. The way the story unravels to reveal his true path, it is hard not to feel it.

The moment when he comes to her and her brother is dying is my favorite bit.

“Mirah, let me share all your sorrows and all your joys.”

“You mean it truly? It’s me that you want?”

“I have spent my life in doubt and confusion but now I realize it was always your voice that I heard. Could you love me Mirah?”


1. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (2004 BBC)

ns3My current favorite pick for #1 love reveal scene is in this flick that’s been out for ten years now. I have just seen it over the last month and cannot stop watching! Like Titanic, this movie shows many different classes of people working to survive.

Another of Elizabeth Gaskell’s gems, this one explores early industrialism and how the wealth of factory masters came and went with this unreliable business. The beginning of unions and strikes is also spoke of. This book speaks more to friendship and kinship than to romance. There is the kinship between Higgins (you might recognize him from The Glass Virgin) and Mr. Thornton (which is a part I adore) in mutual trust master to worker. There is the friendship of Margaret and Betsy, two girls from very different worlds who find solace in each other. And there is the respect of mother to son, each doing their part to make the family survive.

There are several romantic moments and because they come so sparsely in this 4-part mini series, when they happen, you must pay attention to catch them. My favorite is not when he proposes his love to her, or when he accidentally touches her hand at tea. Nor is it when she saves his life in the cotton factory strike riots.

The runner up would be when she has to leave town after her father dies. He watches her carriage pull away and speaks aloud to the parting coach…

“Look back, look back at me.”

As he hopes… prays she cares for him.

But the number one must-see scene is at the very end when they meet by chance on the train platform. She tries to explain that she wishes to make a business agreement which will save his factory from ruin. He takes her hand and she takes his and kisses it. And then he takes charge and kisses her good. When her train is called, she leaves him, but returns with her bag from the other train car.

“You’re coming home with me?”

My answer? “Oh yes.”

Honorable mentions:

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

The Inheritance By Louisa May Alcott

Middlemarch by George Eliot

The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens