Daily Prompt: Unmapped Country

Tell us about the last book you read (Why did you choose it? Would you recommend it?). To go further, write a post based on its subject matter.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us WORDS.

51d256Yx5XL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-60,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_The last book I read and finished was Chrissie Elmore’s Unmapped Country: The Story of North and South Continues. This book starts off from the chapter-before-the-last-chapter of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South, or Chapter LI (51 as 52 would be the final chapter).

Besides continuing from the book, it is also loosely based on the 2004 BBC adaptation starring Daniella Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage, without the ending the mini-series opted to use which, during that time, would have left both their reputations in ruins. Unmapped Country also uses some of the characters introduced in the series, like Mr. Latimer, the banker, and his daughter, Miss Latimer. Elmore writes the book close to the way Gaskell wrote it, which means it was written in the vein of the time. You could literally read Gaskell’s book, skip the final chapter and continue with Elmore’s book without missing a beat.

Unmapped Country: The Story of North and South Continues follows the travails of two characters – Margaret Hale, now a wealthy heiress, and John Thornton, a mill owner who has recently been forced to shut down his own cotton mill due to the economic climate. It follows each character’s journey to certain realizations about life and each other, despite a proud mother unwilling to let go of her son to someone as spirited as the very woman who saves her son’s business, and a society stuck on how this class or that class of people should act and what rightly deserve.

Oh, the many missteps they encounter just to get to first base were so frustrating yet charming at times, but it built up the excitement as I continued to read the book.

It was also nice to read the growing awareness Margaret develops in the struggle to pair her moral ethics with the decisions she has to make regarding her investments and there were a few instances where I found myself saying, “you can’t save the world and stay wealthy at the same time!” – something I’m sure Bill and Belinda Gates are often faced with themselves (on second thought – probably not).

It is a well-researched book about the Industrial Revolution, one that got me digging into my garage for my own book on the Industrial Revolution – only to realize that I may have given it away to the local library by accident.  I like books that do give me enough background of the times, especially if I’m unfamiliar with said times.  And though the narrative often gets bogged down by the research Elmore has made, the events flow from one to the other, eventually culminating in an event that brought tears to my eyes (quite unexpectedly) and gave me goosebumps (again, unexpectedly) and finally to its charming, much-awaited conclusion.

dvd-ns-nlI discovered North and South by accident, while killing time on Youtube.   And when I watched the miniseries the first time, I could not figure out why the main characters were having so many problems. So she is from the south and he from the north? So what? I thought.

It’s not like the American mini-series North and South, which involved brothers separated by a civil war.

So she’s some clergyman’s daughter and he a mill owner? What the heck was the problem? And then there was the issue with the union dispute and the strike and the Irish workers imported in (would they be called scabs then?).

Unfortunately my knowledge of period stories was based primarily on Jane Austen, which I realized now, focused only on a certain part of society (except for Mansfield Park, but then it still focused much on the upper crust of society). So I had to watch North & South the second time to fully understand it. Not only that, I picked up the book by Gaskell and read it before I finally really understood what was at the heart of the story besides a tender love story between two fiery individuals.

Bear with me here – you see, my latest list of read books have been about fallen angels (Angelfall) and chimaeras (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) – so my mind wasn’t exactly into social and economical issues of 1800’s England and the disparity between the industrial north and class-centric south. I had to first extricate myself from the fantastic storylines I was lost in, but when I finally understood what North and South, both the book and the mini-series, were about, I was hooked.

Unmapped Country: The Story of North and South Continues was one of the many North & South themed books I found on Amazon, written mostly by fans of the BBC miniseries and Richard Armitage. While some of the books focused primarily on marital relations or as some reviewers described as “soft porn”, I picked this book because the reviewers said it was the one closest to Gaskell’s vision and way of writing – which worked for me.

Now I’m not going to be hypocritical and say that I never read soft porn (heck, I write it) or have no curiosity about the many scenarios of Margaret and John’s marital relations, or how such things happened during that time (Did they shave? Brazilian blowout? Keep their clothes on? Keep separate beds?), but after just having finished a second reading of Gaskell’s book, I was looking for something that was more loyal to her style – and I was glad I found it in Elmore’s book.

After all, if I really wanted an answer to my questions, there are other books on the list and I do plan to work my way through all of them – eventually.

For now, I’m getting ready to continue reading the saga of the chimaera, Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone) and lose myself into another world so far removed from Industrial England.

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Daily Prompt

27 thoughts on “Daily Prompt: Unmapped Country

  1. I am excited to read Unmapped Country! I’ve read North and South, and of course seen the Movie more than a few times, and have felt like I was left hanging a bit. I’m off to download. Thanks!!!!

    1. Unmapped Country can often get bogged down with information about industrial England the way Gaskell added it into her narrative in the conversations between Mr. Hale, Margaret and John, but I think it leaves the reader learning more about the times, which is a good thing.

      The ending may seem rushed but I had no problem with that because a scene actually left me in tears which made the resolution all the more awaited and gladly received. I’d give it a 4.5 over 5 and would willingly pay more than the $1.99 price tag 🙂

      1. I saw mention of fan-written fic which was appearing chapter by chapter. I read a couple of chapters and they seemed to me very good, and in a style of writing appropriate to the 19th century. Is this it? Or am I thinking of something else?

      2. There are quite a few of them and I’ve only read this one in its entirety because it was available as a full novel plus the reviews. My first purchase had actually been A Heart for Milton but the side margins ate up the words on all my reader devices and I couldn’t read it without becoming cross eyed.

        However after I finished Unmapped Country, I noticed that the problem has been fixed and that’s the next one I’m tackling.

        There are a few out there that I’ve read on c19 but I cannot handle reading it in a forum format so I haven’t read more than a chapter. Plus the ones I’ve read talk about the romantic aspect a lot more than anything and I have to admit I can’t wait for plot forever.

        I have read some juicy stories of the wedding night though and while they were intriguing, I have to admit that I hold John Thornton on a pedestal and would rather keep their intimacies behind closed doors. But that’s just me.

        Lucas North might be fair game for such intimate writings, but Thornton is a whole other case entirely. He’s like the Greek god I want to keep on a pedestal for just awhile longer 🙂

      3. I just purchased it on special for $1.50. That’s less than a cup of tea to drink while I read it. Thanks for the commentary. I just finished reading the Navigator by Clive Cussler (I’m a Cusslerman). I’ve been a BIG fan of his ever since the first Dirk Pitt book came out in the early 80s. Dirk is the sexy, shy hero with black hair who always saves the day. RA could play him easily. The only difference between the two is Dirk has green eyes. Oh, and there’s that deep water thing….

      4. That’s awesome! I haven’t read Clive Cussler in a while and can’t remember his novels anymore proaably because I was a Robert Ludlum fan more than anything – and also Eric Lustbader 🙂

        Yes Dirk Pitt wouldn’t be a good fit for RA if he has to deal with deep water 🙂

      5. The later Dirk Pitts don’t have as much diving as the earlier books because he’s getting older (40s). He has twins he didn’t know about that do most of it now. He does a lot of helicopter flying and trudging on land. If you saw Sahara with Matthew McConnaghy there wasn’t any diving in that movie, although there was in the book. It was a pretty good movie, considering. I’d have to really think about his sidekick Al Giordino, though.

  2. Well, the last book I read was Chris Ryan’s Strikeback. (I like the way that’s become the title of the series. I guess this is so we won’t confuse it with all the other “Strikeback”s out there. Jane Austen’s Strikeback? Dr. Seuss’s Strikeback? 😀 )
    Strikeback is not great literature and I suspect that if I read others in the series I’d soon get tired of splattered brains and people beaten with vacuum hoses.

    The book is quite different from the tv series, and the treatment of the Katie Dartmouth story in the book, makes the series look, well, candyass. It’s pretty brutal and may be a more realistic portrayal of what happens to hostages that the series. I can’t say. However, the plotline which has Porter go from rubbie to rambo in 24 hours is pretty unbelievable. I think that the tv version was (for once) more realistic. John Porter in the book comes across as a racist, which I don’t find sexy.

    1. The Strike Back series certainly had to comply with certain rules for television, even for British standards, but yes, I imagine the treatment of hostages must be more horrific than what was implied in the series with RA. And I’ve heard that the character in the book does come across as racist as well. As to the unbelievable transformation in 24 hours from rubbie to rambo, I read that it was RA who suggested that they show scenes of Porter doing workout stuff and keeping fit throughout the 8 years so that it would seem believable that he could transition as fast as he did in the series 🙂 Smart boy, that RA…

      1. I think he mentioned that bit about working out being his idea. He’s been frank in saying that it wasn’t the most realistic plotline.

  3. I wish I had something better to report on but I’m between books right now.
    I am just about to start Rick Riordan’s series with ancient Egyptian gods, which was recommended by a friend, and I’m also thinking about a fat novel I saw in the library which was about Antigonos (Antiochos?) one of the near eastern kings after Alexander.

    1. Rick Riordan wrote the Percy series, right? I have the audiobooks since hubby does audiobooks and though sometimes I buy the print version (ouch on the pocketbook), the Percy series wasn’t one that I was willing to pay twice for. I just read a blog post about someone who asked him about fan fiction about his characters during a book signing and he said that it was weird, felt like someone someone trying on someone else’s clothes. Terrific analogy!

  4. I read Unmapped Country and I too liked how it kept more with Gaskell’s writing style and the social etiquette of that time period. I was so frustrated with all of the misunderstandings that kept John & Margaret apart that a couple of times I walked away from reading it for awhile, but I have to say I’m glad I stuck with it because it really was a good book. I’ve also read a Heart for Milton, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and The Whistle Echoes, which did have quite a bit of sex which I was quite happy about reading 😊. I have just started another version of N&S called Coming Home With Me by Mary Jo Schrauben on Amazon which looks potentially promising. I am always amazed at how many different stories fanfiction authors can come up with for my favorite movies and books, and so many are so much better than what I was dreaming up in my head!

    1. Unmapped Country is my first novel of the North & South related novels and A Heart of Milton will be the next one.

      It’s interesting to see how many different ways the story can be told 🙂

      What interests me the most about that time period are the customs and the expectations, not just for the south but for an independent northern town like Milton.

      1. I love history and I’m always curious about the “behind the scenes” part, like how did women sit down or use a chamber pot with those stiff hoop skirts that some women wore during that time period? I was clueless to the whole northern tradesman and southern society thing also, which I think is even more hard to understand when you are American and brought up with tales of great men who started with nothing and worked their way up to greatness with hard work and determination. Americans would have thought John Thornton a role model….although as I’m typing this southern plantations and northern manufacturing towns come to mind….hmmm. Although I guess you could say that’s another reason why the American dream is such a popular belief since the North’s manufacturing of goods is what kept them strong during the civil war and devastated the south without any…..but I digress, sorry!

        When I first started reading fanfiction I felt like it was a guilty pleasure because I wasn’t reading “real” literature but I have discovered some amazing writers (such as you, I love Broken! It really kept me on my toes with all those plot twists!) but I’ve also learned so much. I am really impressed by the amount of research some writers put into their stories. Besides the N & S stories I’ve read, there are some Guy of Gisborne stories that have strong historical research and I’ve suddenly become fascinated by Tolkien since reading some of the Thorin stories out there. I’m in awe of the whole new world that Tolkien created and how he took a lot of inspiration from his time in WWI, not to mention his creation of elven and dwarf languages due to his amazing gift of learning languages. I am feeling quite enlightened now! 😄 Although don’t even get me started on the soft and hard core stuff I also read…that’s enlightenment in a whole other way!

      2. If you want to get a real taste of Tolkien, you should read the Lost Books. There are 12 volumes that his son Christopher put together from his original notes. They are mind-blowing!!! Some are a bit hard to get through, but well worth learning how he really wrote. You’d be might be surprised to learn that Tolkien vehemently denied that any of his books were based strongly or loosely on World War I or II. That is one of those Urban Legends that just doesn’t want to go away.

      3. Oh great! An urban myth that I am helping to spread! Lol! Thank you for the info, I will definitely check them out. Are they still in print? It’s funny to me that I always resisted reading any of his works as a kid because they seemed so dry and daunting. It took 35 years and a fangirl crush on Richard Armitage to finally find out why Tolkien’s books are considered classics and they have such a loyal following. When I was a kid I wanted to read things like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but the funny thing is that when I reread it for about the gazillionth time to my 2nd graders the other day, I noticed what I felt were some influences from Tolkien in Dahl’s writing.

      4. I don’t know that the urban myth in question is really an urban myth. I think it’s just phrased in a way that makes it false. For example, it would not be incorrect to say that Tolkien drew on his experiences in WWI to create the relationships which existed between Sam and Frodo (officer and batman), even though it may not have been conscious. There is a new book on Tolkien being written by Kristin Thompson, which I look forward to reading. She always has great insights.

      5. I probably should have made myself clearer. There are theorists who believe that he used “the ring” as a metaphor for the atom bomb which is totally false. He of course was changed by the wars, everyone was, as we all are by the wars today, how can you not be, but he stated on several occasions and wrote several times that the wars had nothing to do with his writings.

  5. I’m going to be a little off-center here (which I am normally anyway) and tell you about the book I just heard. It was “Sylvester” by Georgette Heyer, and it was read by none other than Richard Armitage. It was a wonderful book filled with the romance of the era 1860s, style, but was definitely not a do-over of North and South. Along with enjoying the dark chocolate voice of Mr. Armitage, (he can carry you right inside the book) the well-written novel left you pining for more of the “book within a book”. I highly recommend Sylvester. I can say without hesitation, I also recommend her book “The Convenient Marriage”. It too was read by Richard. Whether you read them or listen to them they are both worth your time.

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