0399 | Mary Barton | Elizabeth Gaskell

0399 | Mary Barton | Elizabeth Gaskell

Context:  Sorted out a load of scrap metal from my late father-in-law’s old office while listening to this.


My first Gaskell was a bit of an unexpected page turner (well, it would have been if I hadn’t listened to it!) and it sparked my desire to read more of her.

Mary, as many of us when young, finds herself a victim of her own whimsy. But then, unlike many of us, she then finds herself involved in an awful moral dilemma as the characters around her fall victim of circumstances created by the economic hardships of the time.

Although I’ve not read any Gaskell before, I know enough about her writing to know that there is always an extra character in the cast: economic inequality. I felt that this character played more of a supporting role in this story, of which Mary is the undoubted protagonist. Nevertheless, inequality is always there, lurking in the background and tainting every relationship.

I found the characters fairly well-developed. At times they reminded me of Dickens, particular with a couple who appeared at the start, rapidly vanished only to reappear at a critical juncture to completely redirect the plot. I appreciated that.

I think this book would be a good introduction to classic Victorian Brit Lit. So, if you’re looking for a decent read by way of introduction to that genre, pick up a copy of this.


There are some fields near Manchester, well known to the inhabitants as "Green Heys Fields," through which runs a public footpath to a little village about two miles distant.


"Father does not like girls to work in factories," said Mary.

"No, I know he does not; and reason good. They oughtn’t to go at after they’re married, that I’m very clear about. I could reckon up,"—counting with her finger—"ay, nine men, I know, as has been driven to th’ public-house by having wives as worked in factories; good folk, too, as thought there was no harm in putting their little ones out to nurse, and letting their house go all dirty, and their fires all out; and that was a place as was tempting for a husband to stay in, was it? He soon finds out gin-shops, where all is clean and bright, and where th’ fire blazes cheerily, and gives a man a welcome as it were."

Alice, who was standing near for the convenience of hearing, had caught much of this speech, and it was evident the subject had previously been discussed by the women, for she chimed in.

"I wish our Jem could speak a word to th’ Queen, about factory work for married women. Eh! but he comes it strong when once yo get him to speak about it. Wife o’ his’n will never work away fra’ home."


This might give the game away. If you want to see the last line, click [spoiler] "Dear Job Legh!" said Mary, softly and seriously.[/spoiler]


0399 | Mary Barton | Gaskell | 60% | Good

Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | Style Read more about how I come up with my ratings

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