When her father has a crisis of conscious, Margaret Hale's life is turned upside down. Because her parents decide to move away from southern London, Margaret must leave behind the tranquil, rural life she's always known to settle in an industrial town called Milton. Though she does her best to assimilate, Margaret cannot help but feel trapped and hopeless in Milton, as she witnesses the brutal effects industrialization has on the environment and the individual. Used to fresh air and open spaces, Margaret notices the stark difference between her country home and Milton. While the air feels thick and the streets feel too crowded, Margaret's compassion is captured by the plight of the lower classes. Befriending many poor laborers, Margaret learns of the unsafe conditions they work in, while they are making pennies on the boss's dollar. While Margaret witnesses and supports her friends as they navigate toxic employer and worker relationships, she becomes involved in their struggles and gradually begins to brainstorm solutions. But when she meets John Thornton, a newly rich cotton mill owner, Margaret's loyalty is tested. Initially clashing with John because of his occupation and his opinions on workers, Margaret begins to slowly develop strong feelings for John, avoiding him when she can out of respect for her underprivileged working friends. But as tensions grow in Milton, Margaret realizes that she cannot hide from John forever, and that she must navigate her intense feelings for the man; is it contempt, or something more?
With themes of class, social norms, and clashes between rural and urban environments, North and South is a sophisticated romance novel. Through the use of strong central characters and the set to the backdrop of the industrial revolution, Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell defies the tradition of romance, and portrayed topics left unexplored by other women of her time. First published in 1854, North and South features an entertaining narrative while providing valuable insight on the life and society of the 19th century Industrial Revolution in England.
This edition of Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell's North and South is printed in a modern font and features a new, eye-catching cover design, making it both contemporary and accessible.