Sunday, March 15, 2009

Elizabeth Gaskell

As much as I LOVED the BBC production of "Pride and Prejudice" with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, I actually love even more the BBC productions of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels "North and South" and "Cranford". Elizabeth Gaskell lived from 1810 to 1865, was a minister's wife, and mother to 6 children. She loved to write stories of relationships and people. Her writings, while popular, were often criticized because she integrated scathing commentary on social ills into her stories, especially about the troubles of the poor and working classes of society.

"Cranford" is a compilation of several of her stories. It is a window into life in a small community dominated by women. In it you see all the spectrum of good and bad behavior in people including the near destruction of a new young doctor's reputation by gossip and misunderstandings. There is also the secret help given by several women to their great hearted friend when she encounters financial ruin. If you love other period drama productions by BBC you will like this too.

"North and South" was very moving for me. In it you see huge transformations and alchemy of characters as the story progresses. Even my teenage sons enjoyed this story. The main plot is about a young English girl Margaret Hale. Her father moves the family from her idyllic agrarian parish home in southern England to the industrial, grimy northern town of Milton. The culture shock is severe and it takes many years for her to adjust to life and to the people there. Some residents of Milton also undergo change as they are exposed to Margaret and her family too. Gaskell's story is a different perspective of Austen's "Pride and Prejudice".

Plan for a long evening or weekend to view either show as there are several episodes to the story. Love the period costumes. BBC productions are stellar in this, just ask the costumer in our house. My family bought two of her books through e-bay for me at Christmas and I am enjoying the written versions very much.

---posted by Queen Lucy

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