Classics Circuit

October 23, 2009

classics circuit

I recently signed up for my first act of group blogging.  A group of book bloggers got the idea to have a tour of blogs.  They would pick an author who was great but under-read and then ask anyone who was interested to sign up to read one of their books and then blog about it on a specified date.  Its set up so that one blog will post about the author each day for about a month.  Each will talk about a different book and from any perspective they fancy and in the end it will be a huge variety of view-points and a celebration of the canon.  My interest was already piqued when I read that the second author to be featured is Elizabeth Gaskell at which point I basically couldn’t type fast enough to email them asking to be included. Click here to see the list of dates. The tour begins on November 16th.  I’ll be posting on November 23rd.

I love Elizabeth Gaskell.  Although its true that I was introduced to her through a TV adaptation (the three part BBC Wives and Daughters) I soon read the book and completely fell in love with her writing.  She’s very unappreciated – the La Crosse public library has only a single dog eared copy of Wives and Daughters on the shelf – in paperback, no less.  This is tragic because she was a great writer.  Her books are  something of a blend between Austen and Dickens.  There are great characters who have to deal with drama in their social circles and families (and usually end up married at the end of the book).  But their stories are played against a back drop of social change in a serialized style that leaves room for many digressions.  The underlying themes take on a prophetic bent because she was writing about 30 to 50 years after the plots are set which allows her to know how things are going to turn out and plot accordingly.  A lot of her novels deal with social changes associated with industrialization and the transition it was catalyzing in England during the 1800s.  The influx of the rail road, of industry, the decline of the gentry, the increasing prominence of science, technology and business are all major themes.  Its amazing how relevant it all still feels today.

Molly Gibson, the heroine of Wives and Daughters, may well be my favorite female character in all of fiction.  (We’ll leave Harriet Vane and Eowyn out of the equation for the moment).  She takes her morality seriously but is never judgmental.  She’s spunky but considerate.  She has little patience with hypocrisy or social bullshit but is still fundamentally polite to most people most of the time.  She’s startlingly modern and has to deal with things like a bitchy step-mother, an absentee father, and a step sister who has to be the center of attention and flirts with everyone in pants. Then she falls for a slightly older guy who thinks of her as a cute kid, pats her on the head and ignores her for three years while she deals with the previously complicated family.  But none of the characters, not even her wicked step-mother, are one dimensional.  Everyone has a psychologically believable character development.  Its a great story.  Anyway, that’s enough rhapsodizing about a book you probably haven’t read for the moment.  Go read it.  Or at the very least watch it.  The BBC did a fabulous job on their adaptation and its well worth watching and only 4.5 hours.  If you liked the 6 hour P&P (don’t get me started on the travesty that is the new one) you are going to love this.  Also, go out and get the newer and also fabulous North and South and watch that too.  Or read it.  Then we can engage in ecstasies of praise together … and you’ll be prepared for the upcoming Classics Circuit.

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One Response to “Classics Circuit”


  1. […] 23, 2009 I’m honored to be a part of the Classics Circuit Elizabeth Gaskell Tour.  I knew the moment I heard about it that I wanted to be a part of the project.  For more about the tour go to its website here.  The […]


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