It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes I just cannot make myself finish the book I’m reading. By all of my calculations, I should have adored my lastest abandoned book: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I have a soft-spot in my heart for historical dramas and once even read a review of North and South that described it as a “socialist Pride and Prejudice.” How could I not have loved it?
The story at its core is one I enjoy. Margaret Hale, the daughter of a parishioner from southern England, finds her life drastically changed for the worse when her father leaves the church and becomes a tutor in the northern manufacturing city of Milton. There, she and her family become acquainted with with a small cast of characters, the most notable being Mr. Thornton, a master of one of the most successful cotton factories in all of England. Margaret generally turns her nose up at him as he is a self-made man rather than a proper gentleman. That’s not to say a romance never ends up blooming between the two as they begin to understand each other better.
The story is not simply a romance though. It deals heavily with the changes the industrial revolution brought to England. Socially and financially, mass production changed the game for not only England, but the entire world. The main source of contention on this front is between the workers and the masters: the former wants better wages and working conditions, the latter wants to make a profit. Finding a balance between the two parties’ desires is no easy task. Strikes and riots and compromises all take place as the story unfolds.
So why did I decide to drop the book? I felt as though there was too many unnecessary details. I know that this style is not unusual for the era this book was written in, but I simply do not care to have long, drawn out depictions of what the room looks like unless it moves along the plot. I can deal with these era-based stylistic differences in many novels, but in this one it seemed to occur much too often for my liking. I simply did not have the patience to work through it at this point in time. The novel is not bad by any means, it just began to feel like reading this book was more like a chore than a pleasurable pursuit. I may try it again when I have more enthusiasm for it, but for now this book is being shelved.