“Oh Mr. Thornton, I am not good enough” {Book Club}

Brief Update on our Book Club PSA: Thank you! More than 60 people have completed the Book Club survey and the data is so interesting! We will keep the survey open for three more weeks because of Sabbath next week and we know some will check back in when our next book begins. I’ll get a full summary out to you in mid-July. But here is a snapshot on one answer:

I am currently (a) on the field 68.3%, (b) on Home Assignment or Furlough (11.7%), (c) returned to my passport country (15%), (d) other (5.1%).

So fun to see real people’s info, isn’t it? In case you missed it last week, have you ever wondered how big Book Club is? I have! I know there are those of you out there who read the books and are a part of the Book Club but don’t comment (and that’s fine!). Others of you never read the books, but enjoy the Book Club posts. Also fine, wonderful actually. As we apply for grants, many want quantifiable data. The main data we have for Book Club is the number of books we have read. While that is an important piece of information, it is insufficient for the true heart of Book Club. Could you please take a few minutes to complete this survey? In July I’ll share the results. Thanks for your help! Now, on to the real reason we are here: books.

 

We made it! Yay us, high fives all around. Now that we are at the end of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell I have another confession to make.

When we selected the book I didn’t know how long it was, picking up my copy from the library my heart sank a bit. Then I got a copy on Kindle so I would read without the competitive inner dialogue reminding me at the beginning that not only was I lost (is this about Edith or Margaret?) but that I had pages and pages to go.

It worked. Smiley face.

And I am so glad to have read and really digested this book through our weekly discussions. I can say without a doubt I am all the better for reading this book with you and not by myself. So, thank you!

Now to get on to the end of the book. Oh, my word! So much in this section, though I knew it had to be resolved, I did not see coming.

I have written and deleted what I’m trying to say three times because I was shocked, surprised, and satisfied. Here goes again.

Surprise: Fredrick isn’t going to be cleared. But I loved seeing how Margaret, Mr. Hale, and Delores built a relationship long distance and without haven’t met each other in person.

Shock: Mr. Hale dies! At least it was at his friend’s house and giving us a foreshadowing of Margaret’s inheritance.

Surprise: Mrs. Thornton is helpful to Martha. We learn that Mr. Higgins had also been a clerk when he was younger, but he “went down” while Mr. Thornton “went up.”

Shock: Mr. Thornton learned of Frederick’s existence and plays back memories . . . seeing them in a different light and having several “ah-ha!” moments.

Surprise: Where will Margaret live? Seeing how the Shaw/Lennox clan and Mr. Bell were vying for Margaret and the relative little say she had (I think her choice would have been to stay in Milton) even though she knew she would inherit quite a bit from Mr. Bell.

Shock: Edith is annoying. (Okay, that was my own personal shock.) Does anyone else want to shake her and say, “Stop being so selfish!”

Surprise: Margaret gets to visit Helstone. I would imagine some of you have also had the experience of visiting a place you used to live and still hold dear and those who came after you making changes (or as the new vicar’s wife called them, “upgrades.”) It is good to visit. It is hard to visit. So many memories and the finality that you really can’t live life backward, a certain season truly is over.

Humorous: Mrs. Dixon concerned she will become Catholic as she visits Spain. So much needless speculation because Edith mentions that Mr. Bell said . . . like a bad game of “telephone.” Margaret keeps waiting for Mr. Bell to go to Milton and tell Mr. Thornton about her lie.

Shock: But then Mr. Bell dies?! What?! Margaret loses another person in her life? At least she insisted on going when she heard he was sick and was able to see the room where her father died.

Surprise: Margaret is rich! and takes the family on vaca. Relations are growing warmer between her and Mr. Lennox. (Since Edith is on #TeamLennox, I am definitely on #TeamThornton.)

Shock: Mr. Thornton’s business is not doing well and instead of risking other’s money in speculation with his brother-in-law and earning a fortune, he is no longer a master.

No Surprise: Margaret’s fortune goes up as his comes down. Mr. Thornton, a true hero, encourages those at the Lennox dinner party to create opportunities for people from different classes to interact and understand each other.

I like the ending! It wasn’t too sappy. The last line was very satisfactory.

“Hush!” said Margaret, “or I shall try and show you your mother’s indignant tones as she says, “That woman!”

Now that we are at the end, I did a bit of research on Wikipedia. We know that this book was first serialized, being published over a 20 week period. Originally it was to be a 22-week story but had to shorten it after sales started dropping after week six.

I found these adaptations from serialized to book format interesting: “The text in the book, particularly the ending, differs significantly from that of the serialized episodes. Gaskell included a brief preface saying that due to the restrictive magazine format, she could not develop the story as she wished: ‘Various short passages have been inserted, and several new chapters added.’ For instance, she elaborated on events after the death of Mr. Hale and adding four chapters: the first and last chapters and two chapters on the visits by Mr. Bell to London and by Margaret and Mr. Bell to Helstone.”

I’m glad I read it and agree with what others had said about it really picking up in this section!

Before we end, next week is the Sabbath break, so no official reading. After that, we jump right into Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer, hosted by Sarah Hilkemann. I look forward to our next book together, but before we start it . . .

What surprised or shocked you in this section of North and South? How do you think Mrs. Thorton and Edith will respond to the news? Will Margaret and John become “partners” or will Margaret have more power because she brings the money?

See you in the comments.

Amy

P.S.

In July we are going to be reading a fabulous Young Adult novel called Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer. Here’s the plan:
July 10: Chapters 1-6
July 17: Chapters 7-11
July 24: Chapters 12-16
July 31: Chapters 17-21

Summer Reading:

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

13 Comments

  1. Ruth June 26, 2018

    Yes, so much happens in this section! I think the serialized form, and the fact that it got shortened, contribute to it going so much faster at the end. I was also shocked when both Mr. Hale and Mr. Bell died. So much loss for Margaret, and although the ending is pretty happy, I wonder if and when all that grief and change will catch up with her.

    I have to admit, I found Edith a bit annoying at the beginning–totally absorbed in herself and her wedding–so I wasn’t so surprised at this point.

    Even though Margaret ends up bringing money into the marriage, I don’t think her power as a woman in that culture can be more than Mr. Thorton’s. He still has all the power from being male and all the privileges it brought in that society. Maybe they can become partners, but even that, I wonder about. I suspect that everyone will expect him to get to make the decisions about the money, even though it comes from Margaret. It would be interesting to know how they work it out and what their life is like 10 or 20 years later.

    1. Amy Young June 26, 2018

      Oh my word, Edith began to get on my last nerves! 🙂

      Since I finished the book and wrote this post, a teammate called and we talked about the BBC series (which I got from the library, those of you with Netflix, worth watching!). What I wish I had known is that the score was made with only four notes! Changes of keys, yes, but only four notes. And that each character has a different sound. I would have paid better attention!

      And I”ve heard to look in literature for the Trinity (was that in Humble Roots? When she talked about The Secret Garden?). Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the Trinity in this book. What do you think of:

      Margaret—Christ figure
      Nicholas Higgins—Holy Spirit figure
      John Thornton—God figure

      thoughts?

  2. Kristi June 26, 2018

    Amy, it also struck me how long this book is! I was grateful that I was on vacation while reading it, or I would not have been able to keep up. But it was so good and so thought-provoking.

    The ending struck me as a bit abrupt…Margaret had lamented about her loss of respect in Mr. Thornton’s eyes, and perhaps lamented that loss of relationship, but did she really think she could love him? Probably she had not admitted it to herself. But in the end, it appears clear that in a short conversation after not seeing each other for nearly 2 years and parting on bad terms, they are getting married! Did it strike anyone else that way? I am reminded how relatively ‘unusual’ our culture of dating and ‘getting to know someone’ before marriage is in the U.S. Many of the people I know around me in Africa agreed to marry someone without knowing them at all. But I was still surprised to see the abruptness in an English novel. Did it strike anyone else that way? Perhaps that is part of what makes it a good story?

    1. Ruth June 26, 2018

      I read it as Margaret realized she loved Mr. Thornton during those two years, but thought she had lost her chance. But that’s part of (maybe most of) the reason she so badly wanted Mr. Bell to talk with him. But they do go from haven’t-see-you-in-years to engaged really quickly! I wonder if it is also partly because it was written in serialized form and she had to wrap everything up at the end. I will admit that I have also felt that sometimes with Chinese couples, and the time between engagement and marriage is MUCH shorter than in the U.S., sometimes a month or so. I was surprised recently when I was invited to a wedding a month or a little more in advance. Usually it is more like a week or two.

      1. Amy Young June 26, 2018

        That’s what I thought too. After making such a big deal earlier in the book about how much she did NOT like Mr. Thornton and then to know that he knew about her lie, she had backed herself into a corner she wasn’t sure how to get out of.

        And I think the fact that it was serialized and Elizabeth ended up having less time to flesh some parts out probably sped up the ending.

        Reading through our comments, I’m reminded that dating/engagement rituals/and marriage are so cultural :)!! More so, it seems, than other parts of culture! 🙂

  3. Kiera Duncan June 26, 2018

    I enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would actually. The contrasting theme of the north and the south was deeper than I originally thought. As one who has lived in several places that I call home and then left them, I found the scenes where Margaret goes back to Helstone had depth – how she noticed all kinds of changes, even little things, and the audacity of the new preacher’s wife to proclaim everything was now better and how that was a back-handed insult to Margaret’s father.

    I liked how Mr. Thornton’s interaction with Higgins changed him into a more compassionate employer and I liked his choice to have integrity and not gamble with his creditor’s money, even though it meant he took a step backwards in life and even though it turns out the gamble was successful. I wonder if his father’s legacy of leaving debt was one reason he was loath to get into debt himself (or gamble with creditors’ money and so if he lost it have no way to pay them back). All in all, a fairly satisfying conclusion. I felt about this book similar to the Piano Tuner – it’s awfully interesting for a book in which “nothing” happens. I’m impressed by writers that can create a sense of drama when there is little drama in the storyline.

    1. Amy Young June 26, 2018

      Kiera! Yes, the parallels to The Piano Tuner, I had missed those.

      And those scenes of visiting Helstone struck a tender chord in me too. Funny how reading about the 1850s, I’m back in Lawrence, KS, Chengdu, and Beijing and I feel so nostalgic I ache.

      I agree that John’s father’s debt and the number of people it touched (especially his family!!!) was formative for John to be more cautious (which I agreed with)

  4. Rachel Kahindi June 26, 2018

    That ending was rather abrupt. Reading on the Kindle, I could see when I was closing in on 100% and couldn’t believe it was just going to end right now. I liked the way the story resolved, though.

    But, seriously. More dying.

    I found myself liking Edith less and less in this section, though I liked her in the beginning because Margaret does. On the other hand, I liked Mr Thornton more and more as his relationship with Higgins opened his eyes to the need for relationships with people who are different from us. “Such intercourse is the very breath of life.”

    1. Amy Young June 26, 2018

      You know I was already reading on a Kindle, Rachel, and when I would check the percentage, I kept wondering how in the world so many dangling ends were going to be wrapped up. And then boom, boom, boom, :). We are done!

      I also found myself internally warming towards Mr. Thornton and admiring him for truly interacting with Mr. Higgins.

      And your quote, genius!! 🙂

  5. Kristi Rice June 30, 2018

    Amy – I was just looking up the next book, Hope was Here. It does not appear to be available on kindle or as ebook. I clicked on your link to the kindle edition, but it says “not available for purchase.” Is it available somewhere else?

  6. Suzanne Rowe July 1, 2018

    Yes, the ending was SO abrupt! I like to imagine the scene when Mr Thorton’ would tell his mother about the upcoming change in circumstances and whose money is behind it!.

    1. Elysa Mac July 2, 2018

      Agreed, Suzanne!

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