Their Hearts Were Too Full {Book Club}

Public Service Announcement. Well, maybe not quite a PSA, I do have a question: 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!


My love of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is growing. And, if I’m honest, is my sense of being a well-rounded person. Though not at the end yet, I can tell that I will be glad to have read this.

Today we are discussing Chapters 27-39. Let’s touch base on the themes mentioned the previous two weeks and tweak them a bit (now that we know where the story is going).


It was funny to see how Margaret used some “factory slang” and her mom did not like it! (Chapter 29)

Also interesting to see how Margaret’s clear preference early on for the South was not subtle and several “Northerns” mentioned moving to the South for a better life. After Bessy died, Nicholas Higgins wants to move South. Margaret tells him, “You must not go to the South, for all that. You could not stand it. You would have to be out all weathers. It would kill your rheumatism. The mere bodily work at your time of life would break you down. The fare is far different to what you have been accustomed.”


Once again, this theme seemed to permeate this third quarter of the book. However, in this section of the book “class” was also displayed in “death.”

  • People who died: Bessy, Mrs. Hale, Mr. Boucher, and his widow Mrs. Boucher is described as “dying.”
  • While death hit both classes, it did seem to hit the lower socio-economic class harder.
  • Women didn’t go to funerals?! What the what?

When Margaret asked her father not to have Mr. Thornton accompany him to Mrs. Hale’s funeral and instead let her escort him, he replied, “You! My dear, women do not generally go.”

Margaret responded, “No: because they cannot control themselves. Women of our class don’t go, because they have no power over their emotions, and yet are ashamed of showing them. Poor women don’t care if they are seen overwhelmed with grief. But I promise you, papa, that if you let me go, I will be no trouble. Don’t have a stranger, and leave me out. Dear papa! If Mr. Bell cannot come, I shall go.”

Not go to your own mother’s funeral? Some cultural customs are truly hard to understand, let alone the class comment. (And then Mr. Bell had gout, and I felt happy.)

  • The strike is over, but the class pain is still felt! Nicholas Higgins wasn’t able to get a job because he refused to sign the piece of paper saying he wouldn’t join a union.
  • Mrs. Thornton visits Mrs. Hale (at Mrs. Hale’s request) and agrees to watch over Margaret (but not because of fondness for Margaret, but a parental duty. Ha!)
  • Fredrick arrived before his mother died! But had to hide because of the bounty still on his head.
  • Later, when Fredrick goes to London to meet with Mr. Lennox to try and clear his name, the fact that he could try to clear it was also a sign of class.
  • John Thornton was able to quash the inquiry into whether or not Margaret was a part of Leonards’ death.
  • Mrs. Thornton visits Margaret and tells her she “had been seen” and she shouldn’t go out.


Oh, how the tensions built in this section!! Mainly it was one big misunderstanding after another. Because John Thornton doesn’t know about Fredrick, when he hears that Margaret was seen late at night at the train station with a man, he assumes it is a “lover.”

He is like a lovesick puppy.

Then Margaret lies about being there when questioned by the authorities. She finds out that John knows she lied and covered for her and now can’t face him. But feelings are beginning to stir!

But Mr. Lennox was described as being “very helpful” to Fredrick, keeping the romantic tension alive and well.

I know the misunderstanding furthers the plot, but they also drive me nuts! Probably no one else will get this reference, but when I was a youngish person (late elementary school?), there was a sitcom on TV that on rare occasions my sisters and I were allowed to watch. Three’s Company. Two women and a man were roommates. EVERY episode was at its heart a misunderstanding between two of the three. It drove me nuts then. So, not much has changed on that front.

What from your past is this book reminding you of?


I think we are correct that original readers would have understood this aspect without needing to be told. Reference is made to “dissenters.” I wonder how original readers would have responded to Fredrick engaged to a Catholic?

This was one of my favorite lines related to this theme:

“Stay!” said Mr. Hale, hurrying to his book-shelves. “Mr. Higgins! I’m sure you’ll join us for family prayer?”

“Higgins looked at Margaret, doubtfully. Her grave sweet eyes met his; there was no compulsion, only deep interest in them. He did not speak, but he kept his place. Margaret the Churchwoman, her father the Dissenter, Higgins the Infidel, knelt down together. I did them no harm.”

Mixed Bag 

  • I also loved this line from when Margaret and her brother had a few last moments at the train station. “They did not speak; their hearts were too full. Another moment and the train would be here; a minute more, and he would be gone.” I think we have all felt this as we waited with a family member at the airport.
  • In reference to Mrs. Thornton, “She took a savage pleasure in the idea of ‘speaking her mind’ to her, in the guise of fulfillment of duty.” Ha! Oh, Mrs. Thornton.
  • But later, when she does confront Margaret, “Margaret said, ‘You can say nothing more, Mrs. Thornton. I decline every attempt to justify myself for anything. You must allow me to leave the room.’ And she swept out of it with the noiseless grace of an offended princess.” This line cracks me up!

We are near to the end. As a treat, I have the BBC special to watch when I’ve finished reading. Chapters 40-52 will answer all remaining questions!

See you in the comments.


Summer Reading:

Photo by Amber Maxwell Boydell on Unsplash


  1. Michele June 18, 2018

    I picked up on pretty much all the same things you’ve noted here! I LOVE that line about the family prayer and couldn’t help thinking how it could be slightly adjusted to fit today’s setting. I wonder how many of us can relate on some level to the scolding Margaret got for being seen out in the evening with a man in our various cultural contexts. I know I had to be careful as a younger woman in SE Asia and social norms in South Asia, where I live now, are extremely hard for young women so that girls who are victims of sexual violence are blamed for being out at night.

    Another thing that’s come up to me in much of the discussion in various differences of opinion seems so much healthier than what happens today. The characters seem to be genuinely listening to and responding to each other with a fair amount of respect most of the time, rather than blasting each other the way we do on social media today, and it seems more likely that changes of opinion may occur because of the way the discussions happen.

    1. Amy Young June 22, 2018

      OOOh good point! about Margaret having to be careful about being seen at night and the cultural tie-ins for other contexts. I have also been impressed as the story went on as to the ways the various sides and players found ways to communicate and, as you said, listen (not just shout louder). While I can’t change the world, I can look at my own interactions and be more intentional about hearing from other sides. :).

      P.S. How is aunting going?!

  2. Suzanne June 19, 2018

    I confess that I’m behind in the reading but well on the way to being caught up (and I’m glad to have read the plot summary above 😉 ). I really like the way that the author, whether through Margaret or otherwise, makes these lovely little observations about life and people. And I like the way that people aren’t all black and white, but they’re well-rounded.

    Another quote which made me think was Mr Hale’s comment about unions, made to Higgins. He said, “… your Union, in itself, would be beautiful, glorious, – it would be Christianity itself – if it were but for an end which affected the good of all, instead of that of merely one class as opposed to another.” That reminded me of a conversation in maybe 1995 or 1996. My language teacher commented that the way our NGO (at the time) functioned a pooled housing fund- we all put in the same but were allocated housing according to our needs – was communist. That was a compliment.

    This past semester, I had some academic deadlines to meet with a book to read every two weeks and fell behind in this book club reading, but in the last couple of weeks, even while travelling, I’ve finished off Scouting the Divine, Humble Roots and am halfway through North and South, along with a few little tales of Mr Mulliner recommended in a post a couple of weeks back. By next week, I’ll be caught up. I’m loving North and South – I thought I would, having really enjoyed the TV series a few years back.

    1. Amy Young June 22, 2018

      Suzanne :)! I have also enjoyed how we see the dark and light side of so many of the characters! Even Mr. and Mrs. Hale grew on me :). The way they were triangulating with Margaret in the communication drove me NUTS earlier in the book. But every one of them (Higgins, Boucher, John, Mrs. Thornton, Frederick, Dixon, and the list goes one) is glorious and flawed. You go girl with all of your reading!!!!!

  3. Katie Rose June 19, 2018

    So I started early in May, afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up this month, so I finished last week…and I couldn’t agree with your opening lines more— I’m so glad to have finished, and I have indeed become a more well-rounded person.

    And get ready to love love love (and weep weep weep) over the ending! Would also love to hear your thoughts on the BBC special. I really love it. Pretty different from the book, but the pacing and building tension is so spot on! ❤️

  4. Rachel Kahindi June 22, 2018

    I’ve been away from home this week – I’ve read, but not much time to formulate my thoughts into a comment. I had the thought towards the end of this section that we’re running out of characters. Will everyone die and Margaret is the last one standing?

    1. Amy Young June 22, 2018

      Rachel! Good thing I wasn’t drinking when I read your comment or I would have SPEWED all over those around me :). Too funny! Not to laugh at death, but I had not anticipated so many would die!

  5. Michele Zintz June 24, 2018

    Aunting is going pretty well- better than in the past couple of years! The fact that I can say that after a week of rain kept us in the house most of the time is pretty significant. Thanks for asking! 🙂

    1. Michele June 24, 2018

      That was supposed to be a reply to your reply above- oops!

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