My Male Perspective: Review, Margaret of the North

Margaret of the North by Evy Journey is a sequel to North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, the romance between Margaret Hale and John Thornton, later dramatized by a 2004, BBC North & South TV serial, a mini-series of four 50-minute episodes with Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage in the lead roles.

This novel, Margaret of the North, sensitively gives us the ensuing life histories of Margaret and Thornton; and the author, Evy Journey, beautifully recapitulates it in a video using original art work by this same author. This art work is included in some chapters to illustrate the novel.

But this novel is more than just a romance. It also tries to keep and to further develop some of the complexity of Gaskell’s original novel. Gaskell’s novel describes the great upheavals of the industrial revolution in England “…changing times—modern poverty, rage, desperation, militant trade unionism and class antagonism.” (Roberto Dainotto) through Margaret’s eyes and experience.

Margaret is more independent and rebellious than we would expect of a Victorian woman, ignoring some of the social restrictions on women of that time, challenging authority when she sees injustice including Thornton’s initial disregard for the rights of his workers. It may even be argued that she uses her sexual power on him to lead him to change some of his views and the actions he takes toward his workers. Margaret helps found a clinic for the medical needs of the workers—in this aspect of Margaret’s growth, this author may have had in mind Gaskell’s admiration for Florence Nightingale. Margaret also tries to give children some education, helping them to escape their impoverished lives. You can see in these actions that Margaret continues to leave the sealed off world of feminine domesticity to engage also in the masculine public world through philanthropy. She directs and manages her inherited fortune by using it to protect and help others less fortunate.

The tender, sensitive, loving side of Thornton is also shown throughout the novel not only in his encounters with Margaret. His caring for his workers develops further. This softening or blurring of roles for both Margaret and Thornton has led them into a new way of meeting each other, more as persons than rigid role players. But Thornton’s world also increases and becomes more open, and the author shows this using the benefit of her art training: The lead characters visit Paris to witness the great upheavals of the reconstruction of the city. There, the author adds the element of historical artistic developments to upheavals caused by industrialization. In describing what the newlyweds saw in Paris and the lively Parisian cafes, she brings her understanding of the birth of modernism in art that was also happening at the time to demonstrate not only Thornton’s admitting that “careless ease” has a purpose but also that rapid changes are clearly taking place in other cities.

Margaret of the North: a romance, yes. But a romance situated in changing times, in changing social and sexual roles, in social and artistic upheavals.

Posted by Richard Journey, Ph.D., who wrote his dissertation on “Married Women’s Changing in the Context of Changing Social Possibilities.”

Evy Journey’s note: Obviously, this guy is biased, to my advantage. Still, he does know what he is saying. In any case, this review is not going into published reviews on sellers’ corresponding book pages. Dommage!

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