When her father assassinates Henry Carson, his employer's son and Mary's admirer, suspicion falls on Mary's second admirer, Jem, a fellow worker. Mary has to prove her lover's innocence without incriminating her own father.
First published in 1848 and subtitled "A Tale of Manchester Life", the author's invention of entirely working-class characters for this novel was for the times an innovation.
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Juliet Stevenson is nothing less than brilliant in narrating this work of Elizabeth Gaskell, and brings its several characters to life with seeming effortlessness. It is a piece of vibrant performance art. Gaskell's touching novel is a reminder that the extent to which socio-economic dislocation and abuse will be eradicated is dependent on being spiritually alive to the oneness of humanity. And though written over 150 years ago, Gaskell's deep concern over society's deafness to the poor, never heavy-handedly conveyed, unfortunately still has rich meaning.
Elizabeth Gaskell wrote novels and short stories in the 1840-60's. That is 150 years ago! And her novels have aged perfectly because the people speak in voices that you could hear today.
She was only 55 when she died, leaving her last novel, "Wives and Daughters", unfinished. She also wrote "North and South", referring to England and the comparison between idyllic village life and terrible manufacturing town life. "Cranford" is a short novel, her second, and probably her best when considering characterizations.
I find it incredible that "Mary Barton" was her first novel. It is chock full of people you will recognize from our culture today. Our American culture at that, probably any culture.
Gaskell wrote in a manner that was so far ahead of her time. She needs to be appreciated by more people than just English majors. Her work deserves all sorts of people to read it. Just darned good story-telling.
I heartily recommend all her novels to Audible listeners. Even though these novels are in the public domain, the Audible versions are so much better spoken. The readers chosen by Audible are perfect, light British accent and easily understood. They add a lot to these books.
I most enjoy reading spiritual books to nourish my soul; psychology books to enhance my profession; & psych thrillers for fun escapism.
I happened upon Elizabeth Gaskell's final, almost fairy tale like book. I was so charmed by her story and lyrical writing that I decided to see what else she had written. To my amazement her other books expose the harsh, unforgiving realities of the workers and their families as a result of the Industrial Revolution, as it transpired in England in the early 1800s--very different from her final book.
I also learned that Ms. Gaskell is the author of the famous "North and "South," a book I felt too daunting to read as my next book. I chose instead "Mary Barton" as a warm up to this other book that I now intend to read. "Mary Barton" turned out to be much more than a warm up. It is hard to put into words the beauty of Elizabeth Gaskell's writing, even as she describes human hardship and misery brought upon one class of men against another. And then to also weave many stories of human love and an actual love story within such dire circumstances!
I am so glad that I found, although belatedly, this other author from 19th century England who deserves to stand with the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen.
Oh! I must not forget to commend the narrator, Juliet Stevenson, whose performance I cannot imagine could be surpassed by any other. What lulling beauty of her voice. What amazing ability to bring to life the words on a page. She took me right there to the lives and depth of character of the people of Manchester, England.
Juliet Stevenson's narration!
North and South as far as the tale being set in the industrial revoultion and the conflict between masters and men.
Her narration was awesome! She brough the characters to life with emotion; I loved it!
The repentance of Mr. Carson following the plea for forgiveness by his son's murderer.
This was a delightful story and brought to life the human struggle between master and worker and her call for men to treat each other as fellow citizens on God's earth, no matter their position in society.
I like to listen to classic literature while I'm on the treadmill at the gym. The deep meaningful thoughts drown out the inane pop music.
I'm a great fan of Elizabeth Gaskell since I listened to Cranford, and Mary Barton served only to increase my admiration for her story-telling. This one was surprisingly fast-paced especially toward the end. She really had my heart racing with the suspense of it all! And Juliet Stevenson does it again with her agile reading. It just amazes me how she can switch so rapidly between characters with such different voices and accents.
I love Gaskel's storytelling ability, especially her talent for bringing vividly to the reader's imagination the period in which she lived and the peoples amongst whom she lived. However this is a very dark, bleak tale of passion, jealousy, starvation, and murder. Death permeates this story in every form. Characters are also over dramatized, with swooning and mental breakdowns happening frequently. The narrator as written breaks into frequent burst of scripture quoting and sermon delivering. This is definitely one of Gaskel's most "preachy" novels. I enjoyed the tale none the less and Ms. Stevenson is amazingly talented with the various accents.
This was Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel. It's a little sentimental and a little too fawning about religion for my taste, but overall, it's a stunning work of fiction. Amazingly vivid and rich, brutally honest about the plight of workers (in a way that feels highly relevant to today's anti-union attitudes), and touching in its portrayal of the heroine's moral dilemma and emotional maturation. Once the story gets underway, it's hard to stop listening. It's like a thriller in that way. This is the third Gaskell novel I've read, the first I've listened to.
But let's cut to the chase: Juliet Stevenson absolutely KILLS IT with one of the most stunning readings I've heard. It rivals Ruby Dee's performance of Their Eyes Were Watching God in the variety of accents and dialects done with absolute perfection and scary consistency. This novel has a large cast of characters and without exaggerating or going over the top, Stevenson gives each one a distinctive voice. Truly, it's amazing. Some of the dialogue looks a little daunting on the page, but Stevenson makes it soar with complete clarity. This is maybe the third or fourth book I've heard her narrate, and to be honest, she makes everyone else seem like a cheesy amateur. She really is that good. I know it's a cliche to say "I'd listen to so and so read the phone book" but truly, I believe Stevenson would make it interesting. I wish she'd stop acting and devote herself entirely to this so she could record EVERYTHING.
I started listening to audio books with a long commute in 1998. And I love them. British literature and history are my favorite genres
This is a very fine novel and my first read from Elizabeth Gaskell. The characters or well-developed and sometimes good to a fault. I appreciated the way this book approached the heartfelt issues of its characters from a Christian viewpoint.
I'm Robert's wife, a retired physician and homeschool mom whose grown kids now love history, literature, sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction
Gaskell's versatility is admirable. I really got into this story, and the narrator was perfect. Highly recommended. Also North and South--which I liked even better.
Elizabeth Gaskell writes about her favourite topic - the conflict between management and labour in the industrial era of the 19th century. From the start this story absorbed me. The characters were well drawn and believable, the action was well paced, and there was no superfluous dialogue.
Mill owners were suffering from a reduction in orders for their goods. Rather than lay off workers, they reduced their pay, but gave no explanation of the their reasons for so doing. Living from hand-to-mouth, disenchanted union members held a meeting and elected to punish the mill owners for their reduced circumstances.
A union official murders the son of one of these mill owners, and the blame is placed on a young man who was completely innocent. The mill owner, determined to see his son's killer brought to justice quickly, leaned on the authorities to hasten the process.
The hero was saved from the gallows at the last hour by the heroine; the real culprit identified, and a new understanding between an embittered unionist and a bereaved father was achieved.
Perhaps it appeals to my perception of decency and what some would call today, old-fashioned morality, but I thoroughly enjoyed this audible book with its happily-ever-after outcome, made even more enjoyable by the beautiful diction of Juliet Stevenson.
"Moments of wonderful intensity"
It is not for the plot but for the writing that one reads or listens to Mrs Gaskell, and here Juliet Stevenson is exactly the right reader. The intensity and passion of that scene, for example, where Mary Barton tries to contact Jem before he sails away, so that he can give his testimony at court: the tension that builds is masterful. It is a scene I shall remember for a very long time, and to which I shall surely return on this recording.
Juliet Stevenson does it again! She has such a beautiful, soothing voice. I could listen to anything narrated by her. It doesn't hurt that Elizabeth Gaskell is an author that I really like and admire. The themes explored in this novel are very deep but I didn't find them melodramatic as other people did - I only found them dramatic. I really liked this book - maybe not as much as North and South, but it's close behind.
"Great version of a classic"
This is a very fine version of a classic Victorian story. Mrs Gaskell was a minister's wife so you have to accept the heavy handed Christian ethics, but the story sets out some radical sympathies for both working and monied classes, so stick with it.
the narrator is excellent and sweeps you along.
Just a wonderful, suspenseful, at times moving read. Really interesting to hear how Manchester used to be, and dialects used to sound. The narrator's performance was also top notch
"Such a Bore"
I found this book very condescending for time it was written. I struggled on until halfway through. Finally gave up. It was boring. Elizabeth Gaskell's other books are far far better.
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