‘Mary Barton’ is reminiscent of Gaskell’s novel ‘North and South’, following the theme of the lives and loves of the characters who lived during the industrial revolution in the North West of England, but whereas ‘North and South’ was set in the fictional town of Milton, based on Manchester, ‘Mary Barton’ is actually set in Manchester itself, where Gaskell lived for a time. Like ‘North and South’, it is a difficult, slow read, with a lot of characters it is difficult to keep track of and some you find it hard to sympathise with; like ‘North and South’, the author keeps faith with working-class local dialects and colloquialisms of the time, and these are also difficult to read.
The main protagonist of the book title, Mary Barton herself, comes across as a colourless character, shunning the attentions of a young man of her own class because she believes herself to be in love with the rich son of her father’s mill boss, until something happens which makes her suddenly – and I found this a bit startling – realise she loves the former after all.
Not her best work by any means.
Tagged: classical literature