July Group Read: Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

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July Group Read: Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

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1cbl_tn
jun 30, 2014, 5:58pm

Welcome to the discussion thread for Mary Barton! This is a Victorian social novel set in an industrial city in northern England. It was Elizabeth Gaskell's first published novel. Gaskell was a contemporary of Dickens and the Brontes, and Dickens published her work in the literary magazines he edited.

Since we'll be reading at different times and different paces during the month, it would be helpful to include chapter numbers with comments. The relatively new spoiler tag is useful for hiding plot details from those who haven't yet reached that point in the novel.

2cbl_tn
jun 30, 2014, 6:12pm

I'll be reading the Project Gutenberg version on my ereader, but I won't be starting until later in the month, after I finish Armadale.

3soffitta1
jul 6, 2014, 3:32pm

I'll be starting later on in the month as well - left my copy at my parents' house.

4leslie.98
Redigerat: jul 7, 2014, 11:38am

I have plenty on my plate right now too, so mid-month is about right for me. I am looking forward to this, as I liked her Cranford and Wives and Daughters very much. I wasn't as big a fan of North and South and it seems like this may be more like that (industrial Northern city setting in particular as opposed to village life)...

5cbl_tn
jul 7, 2014, 5:51pm

If I can finish Armadale this week I may start Mary Barton over the weekend. I'll be traveling so ebooks will be easier to read than paper ones.

6MarthaJeanne
jul 21, 2014, 4:44am

I've read about a quarter of it now, and really enjoying the read.

7BookLizard
jul 21, 2014, 10:28am

I've started it. Trying to read a couple of chapters a night.

8leslie.98
jul 21, 2014, 1:24pm

I am also about a quarter through. I am enjoying it much more than I did North and South...

9cbl_tn
jul 21, 2014, 5:38pm

I've read the first couple of chapters, but I may not make a lot of headway until the weekend.

10leslie.98
jul 23, 2014, 12:33pm

It is becoming very exciting now (about 70% through)!!

11MarthaJeanne
jul 27, 2014, 6:24am

I'm just over half way, and it's already quite exciting.

12leslie.98
jul 28, 2014, 2:54pm

I am done now & found it much more exciting than I had expected. I thought it would be social commentary with some romance, so this was a pleasant surprise!

13MarthaJeanne
jul 29, 2014, 3:20pm

Wow! This was a very good book.

14cbl_tn
aug 6, 2014, 6:38pm

I finally finished the book late Sunday but it's been such a hectic week that I've just now written my review. I hadn't read a lot about the book beforehand so the murder was a surprise. I was expecting the romance. The beginning was a little confusing since Mary's mother was also Mary Barton. I wasn't entirely sure which one of them was going to be the subject of the book.

I thought it started out a little awkwardly, with much made about Esther's disappearance, then nothing more about her until near the middle of the book. The romance started out a lot like The Small House at Allington, but it took a different twist that I liked better.

The ebook that I downloaded from Project Gutenberg included a lot of notes about terms or phrases used as part of the local dialect. I found that I didn't need most of those notes. Either the terms were familiar to me (possibly a lingering influence from immigrant ancestors many generations ago), or the meaning seemed obvious from the context.

I think Gaskell succeeded at highlighting the social problems of the working class in England's industrial region in a story with entertainment value. This book is very different from Cranford and Wives and Daughters, but in some ways I liked it better.

15MarthaJeanne
aug 6, 2014, 6:41pm

I also found the Gutenberg notes to be mostly unnecessary. It would have been better if they were at the end and not stuck in the running text.

16soffitta1
aug 9, 2014, 10:07am

I finished this last night. I really enjoyed it, it is hard to make a point without the story seeming clunky, but the balance here was good.

17cbl_tn
aug 9, 2014, 10:10am

>16 soffitta1: Was this your first book by Gaskell? It was my third, after Wives and Daughters and Cranford. The more of her works I read, the more I like her. She's becoming one of my favorite authors.

18MarthaJeanne
aug 9, 2014, 10:14am

I have read a lot of books about this time period, but they have mostly been written from an unemotional point of view. The advantage of this fictional approach is that it makes the underlying forces so much more understandable. People sick and starving, and watching their children die of sickness and starvation mean a lot more when they have become real people to you.

19MarthaJeanne
aug 9, 2014, 10:15am

>17 cbl_tn: It was my first, and I will have to try more.

20soffitta1
Redigerat: aug 10, 2014, 11:13am

Re 17, actually this is my third after Cranford and North and South. I have also seen a great adaptation of Wives and Daughters, from ten or so years ago.

I read the first two after seeing the adaptations, both very good, but she does get so much detail into her work. I actually find her less clunky than Dickens, as her dialect seems natural rather than there for comedic effect.

I spotted this in a charity shop not long before it was suggested as a readalong, perfect timing.