Friday, February 25, 2011
Rec. #57: Mary Barton
What: Elizabeth Gaskell is one of the great underappreciated British authors of the mid-nineteenth century. She was a contemporary of Charles Dickens, and he was an admirer of her work. In Mary Barton, her first novel, Gaskell surrounds her story with the poverty and class struggles of the Industrial Revolution, ideas that would permeate her best writing. The title character, the daughter of a factory worker, unwittingly finds herself in the center of these struggles when she is pursued by a mill-owner's son.
Comparable to: A cross between George Eliot and Charles Dickens. Eliot's humor often comes at you sideways, and so does Gaskell's. And as Dickens often did, Gaskell sets her main character on a quest, with Mary Barton spending part of the book spearheading a pivotal investigation.
Representative quote: "He had no doubt of the effect of his own personal charms in the long run; for he knew he was handsome, and believed himself fascinating."
You might not like it if: You can't handle all the death. I mean, one of the leading causes of death in England in the 1800s was being a character in an Elizabeth Gaskell novel. (Seriously, lots and lots of the characters die. You should know that.)
How to get it: It's in the public domain, so yay! for that.