Sunday, December 13, 2009

North and South, the BBC Miniseries; a Review and Christmas Gift Suggestion

I don’t know how I happened to order the BBC-produced miniseries North and South, but I’m glad I did. I just watched it again the other night and felt I had to blog about it and suggest to any male readers out there who are looking for an idea for a Christmas present for your sweet lady: this is it.

Giver her North and South and then watch it with her. She’ll love you for it and you’ll like it, too. My husband, who judges every movie against The Guns of Navarone, thought it was great.

Taken from a book of the same name written by Elizabeth Gaskell in 1855, North and South is about Margaret Hale, the daughter of an English cleric. Her gentle, south-England existence is changed forever when her father leaves the church because of matters of conscience and moves the family to a northern manufacturing town where he barely scrapes together a living as a teacher.

Margaret has had a London season at the home of her wealthy aunt, and, though she is not totally comfortable with London manners, her social graces cause the northern mill owners’ wives to think her a snob. One mill-owner, John Thornton, falls in love with her.

Margaret’s first introduction to John Thornton is just after she sees him beating up a mill worker. Taking him to task for it, she immediately sets herself apart from the upper-echelon social fabric of the town. The gulf is widened by her south-England ways, and, in her loneliness, she befriends a millworker’s family. It doesn’t help that this worker is a union organizer who precipitates a strike.

In the BBC miniseries, Margaret Hale is played by Daniela Denby-Ashe and John Thornton is played by Richard Armitage. They both do a great job.

When Mr. Thornton was a lad, his father committed suicide because of financial ruin. As he says, “I taught myself self-denial,” in order to pay off his father’s debt and to build up a successful textile mill. When he is around Margaret Hale, he feels very keenly his lack of education and polish.

Margaret Hale struggles to make the best of the situation when life continues to dissolve around her. Part of that struggle is to maintain her independence and to stand for what is right. She finds herself being drawn to Mr. Thornton even as she must do things that set her at odds with him.

There are lots of twists and turns in the plot, some great character studies, and plenty of action. Also, John and Margaret do finally end up together in a beautiful train-station scene.

I would say you need to be prepared to invest eight hours in this 4-hour miniseries, because most of it is in northern dialect, and it takes a while for your ear to become attuned. I love the broad vowel sounds, especially as voiced by Richard Armitage and Sinead Cusak, who plays Thornton’s mother. If you’ll watch it first time through for the story line and next time to catch all the dialogue, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it both times.

You can order North and South from Amazon.

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Monique said...

Sounds great! I'll have to drop a hint for my husband to read your blog.

Laurie LC Lewis said...

I love this stuff! Thanks for the heads-up! Hmmm. . . . now, how do I get this under my tree???????????

Liz Adair said...

I should have mentioned that there's an American miniseries from the 70's or 80's called North and South about the American Civil War. Make sure your hubby doesn't get the wrong one.

Krista Darrach said...

I LOVE this mini-series!
It's really wonderful. Then again I'm a sucker for those BBC movies.
Also...if anyone has trouble with the dialect - you can always put the subtitles on (in English of course lol) This is one of my secrets - I love to put the words on. That way I don't miss any of the excellent phrases.
Love this Liz!

Liz said...

Great suggestion about the subtitles, Krista. However, I think my idea is a great reason for watching it a second time. And perhaps a third?

Glad to know I've got a fellow BBC follower out there.