Mary Barton

by Elizabeth Gaskell

Why is it harder to ‘review’ a book that is a classic and that I have read more than once?  Really, it ought to be easier!

My aunt Wendy introduced me to Gaskell’s work some 20 years ago.  Her novels had not been part of my school education.  Even though I took English at A level, the range of our reading was quite narrow, and until recently I felt much better read in German classics than in the literary legacy of my own language.

I have read North and South and Cranford as well as (I think) Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte Brontë. For some reason I have never read Ruth.

So, what can I say about this book?  It shows what one may assume to be an honest picture of working-class life in northern England in the mid-19th century.  Though sentimental in parts, there is also violence and brutality.  The story is gripping and the characters well drawn.

I suppose I may come back to this book one day.  It is probably my favourite out of the small selection pos Gaskell’s oeuvre that I have read.