North and South . . .
Perhaps I was under a stone, or on another planet or at the very least in solitary confinement (something I do enjoy, actually), when the BBC’s adaptation of Elisabeth Gaskell’s North and South was released. Amazingly I was not all that familiar with Elisabeth Gaskell’s writings. At secondary school and university it had been Dickens, the Brontes, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Xavier Herbert, Joseph Conrad and Thomas Hardy among many others. Heavy, dour books to be reading when one was in the spring, nay, the summer of one’s life. Hardy’s brooding rural settings, Bronte’s even more stormy settings and Dickens who portrayed it as it was so to speak, was enough to drive a young, fancy-free student far from the serious and into the positively tacky. http://readingthepast.blogspot.com/2010/02/tackiness-extraordinaire
However, times change as does one’s age and perhaps thanks to the BEEB, I have a reawakened interest in the classics. But despite this, Gaskell still remained unread. Then last year I watched Cranford with a cast headed by Dame Judy Dench. The story was heartwarming and led to the reading of the book which I also found as fresh and alive as if it was a new release.
North and South remained elusive. To be sure I had heard of the BBC adaptation and God knows, if you are even a mild fan of Richard Armitage’s, you would have known that he played the lead role of John Thornton.
But for a year now I have been reading women’s blogs and rather like they used to with Bridget Jones’ Diary, these women would grab chocolates, wine and solitude and glue themselves to a TV for FOUR hours of utter indulgence. I confess I wondered if it was the storyline or the lead actor who kept them so enthralled and so . . .
Last night was my night . . . yes I had the chocolates and thanks to a friend visiting, I had a surfeit of beautiful Australian chardonnay and being alone at the shack (ostensibly to write but turning up nothing like Gaskell or her friend, Charlotte Bronte) I placed my newly purchased North and South in the DVD player and prepared for perhaps an hour to start with. Just one hour and then bed to read my Phillipa Gregory.
Four hours later, I ejected the second DVD with a smile and the comment to the empty room, ‘That was wonderful!’ It was midnight, I knew that today I would have to accomplish a writing target but would be too tired to manage it well, but it didn’t matter.
John Thornton was the perfect lowering anti-hero (RA does that so well) and Margaret Hale the feisty, conscience-ridden female protagonist. Daniela Denby-Ashe’s eyes could stop men at war!
Shall I read the book? Most emphatically. I have already read the first chapter online. I like Gaskell’s writing. It seems less embroidered than her female peers, plainer, more functional and she seems to handle matters of social awareness with more truth and less depressive over-statement than her male peers. I think I would have liked to read her books at university. There is a freshness to her voice that resonates even now.
In the meantime, I wouldn’t mind translating that same freshness to my own writing and with that in mind, and having read Rachelle Gardner’s blog today, (http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com )I must put the keyboard to seriously practical use. Until next time . . .