Mary Barton is young, kind, and beautiful - perhaps dangerously so. John Barton, her hearty and intelligent but grievously uneducated father, who could never abide the gentlefolk, pours fierce love and courage into his family and work. One day, circumstance causes Mary to be faced with a terrible choice: either protect a member of her family or sit back and watch a terrible miscarriage of justice. Will she make the right decision in time?
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I would recommend this book to anyone who loves classic English literature. The brilliance of the language and the minute descriptions are enthralling. However, I would not recommend the book to anyone who is looking for a vacation book or a quick read with lots of action. Definitely an acquired taste and not for everyone, but for those who appreciate exquisitely written prose, it's a winner.
Middlemarch by George Eliot comes to mind also as the central character is a loyal woman who has to subjugate her own wishes and desires to conform with what is expected of women of her class, but who ends up triumphing in her way.
Oh my goodness - that Manchester accent!! So much more fun listening to the dialogue than reading it because Ms. Stevenson's characterization brought them all to life! Each character had a different voice that perfectly matched their personalities. She managed to bring out the depths of the emotion expressed by each character, bringing me to tears as I pictured the squalor and desperation of poverty-stricken workers in Manchester. I listened to the story as I was driving and had to pull over a couple of times to wipe my tears away.
There were so many but probably the death of Mary's mother and the subsequent desolation of Mary's father.
I adore the way Mrs. Gaskell writes and the detail with which she adorns her descriptions. Her use of the English language is so powerful and her choice of words so perfect, her books should be mandatory reading for anyone who wishes to study English! Juliet Stevenson's reading is truly magnificent.
Retired to mountains of California. Sell on eBay as Prsilla. No TV. Volunteer in wildlife rehab. Knit, sew or embroider while listening.
Yes, it ends well but is terribly depressing in spots where other writers will shift gears, turn to some bright spot on the horizon. No, Gaskell just rubs salt in all the wounds of hard work, long hours, no food, no money, sick family members, worn old clothes hanging on long-faced hungry people. It helped me to realize this is my/our history! This is why so many emigrated! And how far we've all come with our labor unions, better laws, social work, more educational opportunities, apprenticeships. This book captures the horror of the ruined woman, the street walker, addicted to alcohol. It contrasts working class misery with opulence in the homes of the mill owners where there is plenty to eat and servants to keep everything clean, tend to large and attractive wardrobes. Mary Barton works as a seamstress. I am about to list a vintage ruffled silk shawl to sell online and deciding what price to ask. It is entirely hand-sewn with a French label. Modern women are struggling to learn to hand-roll a silk scarf -- or using their machines! I will not under-value this lovely thing!
Of course Ms. Stevenson reads the book wonderfully, making good sense of the somewhat old-fashioned sentence structure. She got the accents, too. She sounds like my friend, Anne, who is from Yorkshire. Well, duh, of course, because this novel is set near there. I will gladly listen to anything she reads!
This is a gutsy novel! Gaskell takes us to court and shows her characters suffering all their various anxieties that people still feel when they must appear in court in any role at all. A great city has villages; at least I know that Madrid, Spain and San Francisco do. The great trial has people venturing out of their little daily routines and traveling great distances, having to look good in an unaccustomed situation, having to speak up to their "betters!" I looked up this author. She must have known Jane Austen's work. George Eliot was a contemporary. Gaskell was a minister's daughter who married a minister. So she had books, newspapers and good talk around her. I look forward to more good listens. This author is well worth-while!
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