So there I was, reading the last section of North and South and zoning out (even though I was motivating myself with a Mexican Mocha (except it was decaf, which was probably where I went wrong)), when I suddenly had to go back and re-read, because, whoa, Papa Hale died! What the hell?!? And then I was all ho-hum, Mags is devastated, is she ever going to recover, oh hey, she’s back in Helstone for a little visit, WHOA, someone killed a cat? That was weird. And then, yawn, blah, blah, blah, yawn, blah, blah, blah, WHOA, another death? Again, what the hell, Gaskell? If I was one of her characters and over 50 I’d seriously be worried for my continued existence. And I kept reading, and thinking good grief is this book getting more boring towards the end or is it me, when all of a sudden Thornton and Mags are all lovey-dovey, kissy-kissy (at least that’s what I like to believe is happening during the “delicious silence”) and then I went to flip the page (the virtual page, as I was reading on my iPad) and nothing happened. I tried numerous times before I thought to check the page count…1342 of 1342.
Huh. I made it to the end. I’m still not sure how I feel about that. For a book that had been running out of steam for A Very Long Time, the ending was oddly abrupt.
And how do those 19th century characters fall in love when it seems like they never talk to each other?? Oh wait, Thornton and Mags did talk to each other, once upon a time, before she was offended by his proposal. And then, like, 2 years go by, and suddenly they’re in love? Well, he’s always been in love (goodness knows why)…Mags was the holdout. Still. We went for practically two years with minimal contact! And then in two pages they have resolved everything and will be living HEA. Or so we assume. Maybe Mags changes her mind in 5 years and runs off to the Continent to meet up with her secret Spanish lover (and we can blame that on Freddie), leaving Thornton to be a single dad to their three children, John, James, and Juana (paternity doubtful on that one).
Also, remember when I predicted the werewolves were coming? Well, they did. Seriously! How else can you explain Mr. Lennox’s failure to appear for his meeting with Thornton and Mags? Obviously, he was bitten by werewolves. It’s the only explanation.
Anyhoosie, you might be wondering what I really thought about this book, especially since I seem to talk more about alternate endings and werewolves than anything else. I finished, so it wasn’t excruciatingly painful (I know, I’ve finished other books that actually were…ahem, Brothers K, Ulysses…so that might not be a good indicator), and I still like Gaskell way better than Austen (although only having read one book each, I might be a little hasty in my preference), but I won’t be pushing this book on everyone I know. There were long stretches where I was bored, and the characters often frustrated me (Margaret, especially, with her descent into wimpiness after her father’s death (a bit harsh, I know, but she was A ROCK when her mother died), and her sudden willingness to play kissy-face with Thornton, even though it seems like that was how novels rolled back then), and it took forever (almost 2 years in the book, I think) to get to the end. But I did like the fact that Gaskell had various social classes represented (the working poor, the nouveau riche, the idle rich…) and she introduced current social issues into the novel. Despite that sometimes it felt otherwise, shit happens in this book…there are strikes, and there is ill-health brought on by working conditions, and there is the mysterious leaving of the church by Mr. Hale (even though that remains unexplained), and there are some not so subtle digs at all sorts of things.
So basically…no regrets. A few yawns, but no regrets.
And finally…a big thanks to our intrepid hosts, Andi and Heather, for talking me into reading a book that is most definitely not about the Civil War. I may not be reading the classics I intended to read this year, but it’s always nice to explore something I’d previously never even heard of.