I don't really do individual book reviews, I tend to wait until I've read a selection and then choose a few that have covers that will look nice together in the photos. Here for example. The major issue with this is that at University I do so much 'required reading' for classes and researching essays that I don't get much of a chance to really read proper books... which to me seems like it defeats the object of an English degree if I'm completely honest, or is that just me?
This is actually a book I read last term for a Nineteenth Century Novel module which I enjoyed. I found that I liked a lot of the books but none of them quite touched my heart like this one, so I thought I'd share one of the few books I read on this course that I genuinely loved.
North and South is, in a nutshell, the story of Margaret Hale. She's a young middle class woman who moves with her parents from a very comfortable environment in the South of England to live in the industrial town of Milton where she develops a passionate sense of social justice and a complicated relationship with mill owner John Thornton.
For anyone interested in Classic Literature, or who likes reading but can't find a classic that they like I would highly recommend this, particularly if your usual lurking area of bookstores is the 'Chick-Lit' section. It's sweet and girly but with dramatic, heartbreaking moments, a wonderfully complex cast of characters and really powerful commentary on Victorian class culture. Margaret Hale in particular is a brilliant character. She's not perfect by any means, what interesting character is? She's haughty and proud but is at the same time incredibly kind hearted and refuses to back down from what she believes.
A lot of people shy away from classic literature because they worry that the language will be too complex and "ye olde" for them, but honestly I read this with little to no problems at all, there were moments where I didn't quite understand a bit of grammar or didn't understand a reference but I just glossed over them and at no point felt like I'd missed anything important.
The romantic thread that runs through the plot is often compared to that of Lizzie Bennet and Mr Darcy's story in Pride and Prejudice. I may be committing literary heresy to some of you, but I think this is actually better. Lizzie and Darcy jar simply because they don't like each other and are both too stubborn to back down. The romantic interests in North and South clash on important social issues and it's the passionate debates that the two engage in that create heat and tension between the couple as they try and push each other into their way of thinking. For me this is far more entertaining and makes the romance far more fiery and exciting.
I think I've gushed enough. Go read this book! Not only is it a beautiful story with strong characters and a breathtaking plot, but you can sit next to people who are reading Nicholas Sparks and whatever '50 Shades style garbage' has been churned out recently on the train, and feel smug that you're reading and enjoying a piece of fine English literature. No downside!