Friday, February 11, 2011

Mary Barton

Mary BartonMary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first experience reading Elizabeth Gaskell, and I am not disappointed. I am familiar with her works through PBS Masterpiece Theatre (I LOVE Wives and Daughters and North and South--Cranford is good too). After listening to an interview about Gaskell, I was persuaded to begin by reading Mary Barton first. I am glad that I did. It was excellent.

It begins on a moderately high note (in the context of a mostly depressing book) and goes downhill from there. It reminded me a bit of Thomas Hardy in that there is doom lurking around every corner. I am not one to shy away from a depressing story, especially when it is based on an pretty accurate portrayal of the time period, but I got a little bogged down by this one. About half-way through I actually considered quitting. I'm relieved that I didn't.

The first half thoroughly explored the plight of the factory workers in Manchester, England in the early 1800's. It was slightly exhausting but necessary, I now believe, for the remainder of the narrative. The second half flew by as Mary's life became front and center. I could not see how there could be a happy ending (and I won't give away whether it is or not), but these downtrodden characters are worth rooting for.

**Audio Review - I love Juliet Stevenson as a narrator. She is always so reliable and enjoyable.

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1 comment:

Karalee said...

Jenn this is one of my favorite things that you do. It is awesome to have a growing list of books I need to read.
P.S. How do you find the time?