Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book 85: Mary Barton Finished.

Regular readers know the format to my posts, but anyone who is newer to my blog should continue reading this first little paragraph (you can skip down if you know the spiel). I am never up-to-date with what I am currently reading, since I usually stop at random points to jot down thoughts. I make multiple posts per book and that usually means that I fall way, way behind. This is really no exception.

I read Mary Barton back at the beginning of April. Usually this is not a problem when it comes time to writing posts since I am usually finalizing them a couple weeks after, but somehow Gaskell's work kept getting pushed to the side as other commitments kept popping up everywhere. I feel bad about this. Especially when I sat down to hammer out my posts on Gaskell's work to find that my notes are especially sparse. Whoops. But then I remembered that I read the bulk of this in my pneumonia stupor and during Dewey's readathon, when I was overtired and coughing every 3.4567 seconds.

But, I need to have something here, right? So this is my attempt at a short and sweet post to wrap this baby up and get on to the next books on my list (don't be surprised when it jumps to number 90. All the books in the middle were readalong books-they already HAVE posts).

This is the second work by Gaskell I've read. I read North and South ages ago and truly loved it. I even own the BBC adaptation and watch it regularly. The second Gaskell I read was Cranford, which I ran as one of the first readalongs last summer (in June I believe!). I really enjoyed that one as well, so I had really high hopes for this one.

What my notes tell me, and what I can clearly remember, is that I was slightly disappointed by this one. It WAS Gaskell's first novel, and I think that it clearly shows she was still honing in her craft. The story meandered a bit, and lacked some of the spunk and fire that I loved in the other two titles I've read. The main character of Mary Barton seemed to flesh out about halfway through. The first half, while enjoyable, left me wanting something.

There was also too much...silly romance going on that distracted me in the first half. It seemed almost too simple for Gaskell and not what I expected.

However, the novel changed about midway and from that point forward, I did enjoy its simplicity. Mary was fleshed out further and I came to understand Gaskell's goal. She was trying to capture the struggle between the classes in a new way for her time period. She does a much better job of this in North and South, but I understood where she was trying to go. I also came to love some of the other characters, including Mary's neighbors and friends. A look inside their homelife gave the novel a lift and optimism.

I also loved the scandal surrounding the "major event" and the events that took place after. I think Gaskell did a great job finding a solution to the issues she raised.

I just think she improved with age. :)

Anyone else read this one? How do you think it compared to her other work?


  1. Completely agree with everything here. Disappoing compared to other Gaskell, but definitely shows her potential.

    She wrote it as she was struggling to deal with the death of her son. I liked knowing the reasons behind WHY she decided to sit down and write for the first time.

  2. I have this on my shelf, but I haven't read it yet. Every time I pick it up, I make the mistake of reading the back cover, which I think may give away some of the important plot points, and that's kind of turned me off reading it. I loved North and South though, so I'd really like to read some more Gaskell. I'll just know not to expect quite the same level in this earlier book!