This is Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel, a widely acclaimed work based on the actual murder, in 1831, of a progressive mill owner. It follows Mary Barton, daughter of a man implicated in the murder, through her adolescence, when she suffers the advances of the mill owner, and later through love and marriage. Set in Manchester, between 1837-42, it paints a powerful and moving picture of working-class life in Victorian England.
Mary Barton is Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel. I adored North & South and immediately tried to find all her other books.
I have to confess that I was slightly disappointed with Mary Barton Maybe my expectations were too high and this was, after all, a first try by the author. But don’t get me wrong, this was still a good story with many positive aspects.
This book is all about the city of Manchester during the Industrial Revolution. It‘s our main character and Gaskell follows beautifully its growth. We assist to the first struggling of working classes and the unions or even the harsh daily life of so many families who faced poverty and death. I was entranced during these parts that were described vividly and in a very human way.
The love story between the young Mary Barton and Jem Wilson is sweet but that’s all. Somehow, the young couple seemed to be completely swallowed by the events who took place around them. I can say exactly the same about the murder of the son of a factory owner. We know since the beginning who was the responsible and the trial and final revelation are not a surprise at all.
Gaskell is a wonderful writer and a true storyteller. Her style is catching and despite some flaws, I found myself craving for more.