North & South

I’m half way through the four episodes of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South produced by the BBC. Darker than Downton Abbey or an Austen adaptation, North and South is set in a mill town in northern England during the Industrial Revolution. Margaret Hale moves with her parents from the countryside in the south because her father, a vicar, won’t sign a paper stating he believes in the Common Prayer. So they’re uprooted to the sooty, depressing North.

They encounter Mr. Thornton, a strict factory owner, takes lessons from Mr. Hale. Margeret befriends a working class family, headed by a union organizer, preferring them to the snooty Thorntons. The series provides great visuals of work in the factories with cotton floating through the air like snow that chokes and sickens the workers. Though philosophic and ethical adversaries Mr. Thornton admires Margaret and proposes to her. He’s flat refused. It’s not hard to guess how that relationship will fare, but I am intrigued and wonder about the workers.

It’s a fascinating drama capturing life in the Industrial Revolution.

Gaskell wrote the lighter Cranston, which I read and reviewed last fall.