Mary 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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