I had loved North & South, liked Cranford and I must confess that I was totally unprepared for my reaction to this Mary Barton. I loved it!!!
I am a bit undecided on what to mention first, Mary Barton focus on Mary who is apparently the main character but more than that is focusses on the industrial side of the city of Manchester in the 1840s, on the relationships between Masters and workers, but especially on the workers living conditions. The misery that forced them to desperate acts from seeing their families starve.
I think Gaskell is brilliant analysing human nature at its best and at its worse, I loved the voice of the narrator who narrated the story yes, but also explained what needed to be explained and reflected about what leads men to do what they do.
But the second half of Mary Barton is also a murder mystery. A man is murdered and another is accused and we know, like Mary does, that the accused is innocent. Fortunately something can be done to prove his innocence and we follow her as she tries to do exactly that.
Gaskell gives a voice to the desperate, the famished, the miserable, even to the prostitutes of the time. This is not a happy book, although is does have a happy ending, but I closed it with a happy sigh because I love these big social analyses and Gaskell tells the story with a fast paced compelling way that kept me hooked till the last page.
This is my B Book for the The Alphabet in Historical Fiction challenge.