The romance genre, depending on the reader and the writer can either be one of two things: predictable and boring or exciting and engaging. Elizabeth Gaskell’s classic novel, North and South, is the latter. Set in the fictional industrial town of Milton during the 19th century, it is the story of the rocky courtship between Margaret Hale and John Thornton.
In 2004, the book was made into a mini-series. Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) has spent her entire life in the South of England. When her father (Tim Pigott-Smith) looses his position with the church, he relocates his wife and daughter to Milton. To support his family, Mr. Hale finds work as a private tutor. One of his students of the mill owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage). Margaret believes John to be haughty and full of himself and sympathizes with the mill workers. John thinks Margaret is a snob and speaks of what she knows nothing about, especially the delicate balance between the workers and the owners that keep Milton going.
Among movies and miniseries in the BPD (British Period Drama) genre, this is one of the best. Based on a beloved classic with a cast of actors who have played roles in Downton Abbey, Jane Austen adaptations and other period dramas, it is worthy of the praise that had been heaped upon it. Add in the Lizzie and Darcy like chemistry between the two leads and you had the perfect BPD.
Great Expectations is one of those books. If we did not read it at some point during our school days, we read it as adults. It’s no wonder that the book has been adapted for the screen many times over.
In 2011, Great Expectations was made into a TV movie starring Douglas Booth as Pip, the poor boy whose life is forever changed by a mysterious benefactor, Vanessa Kirby as Estella, the girl Pip has loved since boyhood and Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham, Estella’s eccentric adopted mother.
As an adaptation, it’s not that bad. What I liked about this adaptation is that, like all good stories, there are certain narratives and experiences that are timeless. The book and this adaptation also reflect the changing world that the industrial revolution created.
The industrial revolution was a worldwide game changer. The opportunities for social and financial advancement lured many away from the rural lives and jobs that their families had lived for centuries.
The Daring Ladies of Lowell: A Novel by Kate Alcott explores the lives of young women who left the rural life for the factories and the new lives they would lead due to the industrial revolution.
Alice Barrow is one of these young women. In 1832, she takes a job at a textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts. The hours are long, the pay is poor and the safety standards are non-existent, but to Alice, this is an opportunity to earn her own income and escape a rural life. Her best friend at the mill is Lovey Cornell, a vivacious, outgoing young woman who is labelled a trouble maker by the foreman and owners. Alice is attracted to the owners son, Samuel Fiske and he is attracted to her. But when Lovey is murdered, Alice’s budding romance with Samuel appears to be on thin ice.
I liked this book. There are traces of Jane Eyre in this book, though not obvious at first. Like Jane, Alice is intelligent and determined to succeed, despite the barriers that are in her way. Samuel, as the first born son and heir to the factory owner, is sympathetic to the workers needs and much more liberal than his father would like him to be. The details about Alice’s life and work is authentic, I felt for her as a reader. This book has romantic elements, but thankfully, Samuel and Alice’s romance does not dominate the story.