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by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell
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From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Jesse Larsen
While Mary Barton is literally a murder mystery, it is also an abundantly detailed and sympathetic view of the nineteenth-century English weaving village of Manchester and some of its people. Mary Barton is young, kind, and beautiful - perhaps dangerously so. John Barton, her hearty and intelligent but grievously uneducated father who "could never abide the gentlefolk," pours fierce love and courage into his family and work. When Mary's beautiful Aunt Esther disappears, her beauty is blamed: "Not but what beauty is a sad snare. Here was Esther so puffed up, that there was no holding her in." Mary's love - for her father, her friends, her charming rich suitor (the son of a factory owner), and his rival, her faithful childhood friend Jem who "loves her above life itself" - provides rich texture and suspense in this finely spun tale: will Mary's pride be her ruin? Will Jem pay with his life for his love of Mary? Interspersed with sparse but regular authorial observation, scenes from family life, work, and love in a nineteenth-century industrial village come alive. -- For great reviews of books for girls, check out Let's Hear It for the Girls: 375 Great Books for Readers 2-14.
Sally Mitchell, Temple University
Another splendid edition from Broadview with the usual high standard of helpful footnotes...
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.
From the Publisher
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