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.
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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.
I 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.