North & South was written by the Victorian author Elizabeth Gaskell in 1854. (Yes, really, Gaskell IS a Victorian, not Jane Austen, as is sometimes mistakenly believed.) But although Gaskell wrote some of the most notable socially-conscious fiction for the rapidly industrializing Britain of the 19th century (Mary Barton, Cranford, Wives & Daughters), North & South is by far her most famous work.
No less a source than Wikipedia notes that this is in no small part due to the smoldering chemistry between Richard Armitage as the nouveau riche mill owner John Thornton, as played by Richard Armitage and Daniella Denby-Ashe as the minister’s daughter Margaret Hale in the 2004 adaptation of the book.
Much like Rebecca stands in relation to Jane Eyre, North & South seems to take many of its character archetypes and the bones of its narrative structure from Pride & Prejudice, without ever referring to the older book directly. But it complicates (to put it mildly) the more personal class-based conflicts of Austen by transposing them into an industrial town where John Thornton is responsible for the health and welfare of the men and women who work for him.
Or, as one Goodreads reviewer put it, “Pride & Prejudice for socialists.”
Join JASNA-NJ to discuss this fascinating novel on Saturday, May 21st, 2pm EST.