Skip to main content

North and South or, Things Angie Can't Get Out of Her Head

Not long ago we had a splendid discussion about book to film adaptations, our favorites, and those to be avoided at all cost. When I made my list of favorites, I had only just barely watched the excellent BBC adaptation of North and South. I longed to put it on my list, but did not as I have not actually read Elizabeth Gaskell's novel--a fact I really should remedy. Gaskell is one of the few rather glaring absences in my 19th century reading. For those of you wondering why the BBC would adapt a Civil War novel, this is not the John Jakes doorstopper or the 80s miniseries starring Patrick Swayze. This is a classic Victorian novel of the same name, which focuses on a middle class young woman who moves with her family from the south to a grim, industrial town in the north of England. There she encounters a cotton mill owner by the name of John Thornton and is thereby caught up in the roiling conflict between lower class workers and upper class masters that is on the brink of tearing the town of Milton apart. The BBC adapted it in 2004 and the film stars the relatively unknown (at the time) Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage.

I loved this adaptation. I watched it first at girls' night with three other friends and then couldn't get it out of my head. So I watched it again, this time with my mother, and she loved it just as much as I did! Not that I doubted it, but you know how you can love something so much you have that slightly nagging feeling in the back of your head telling you you're unhealthily obsessed and other, more normal people would think the object of your obsession was nothing special? I'm not saying I'm obsessed. I'm just saying. I really liked this movie. And a lot of it has to do with the dude above on the left. He spends the majority of the time looking just like that, btw. Grim, brooding, barely suppressed fury at times. He's Rochester meets Darcy and, come to think of it, the movie itself gives off a rather Jane Eyre meets Pride & Prejudice vibe. These two dislike each other on sight and go out of their way to discomfit and annoy one another. But under the surface, subtler currents are at work undermining their carefully crafted disdain. There's even a botched proposal and then more brooding. Unlike P&P, however, the story is not just about the two leads. It is equally rife with biting social commentary and thoughtful explorations of the areas where class and gender meet and cross. It is a dark story and death lurks around almost every corner, though thankfully there are no mad wives in the attic. But two hours go by before anyone smiles and you do begin to wonder if you're in for anything other than suffering and longing glances. But trust me, you are. You so are. I mean, at one point, he actually removes his cravat...

I'm not going to go into any more detail for fear of spoiling it for the two of you who haven't seen it yet. All I'm going to say is it has the most breathtaking ending ever and please to go watch it now! And, as always, come back and tell me what you thought. One last glance to cement your resolve:
Note the distinct lack of cravat. *swoon*


  1. *sigh*

    "look back, look back at me" kills me every time.

    Mr Thortooooooooooooooooooon .


  2. Oh he is SO much hotter than Colin Firth. Just 'saying. The book is just as good, but better since you get a few more details. :)

  3. I love this show and I LOVE the book, I highly recommend it! Elizabeth Gaskell is one of the leading ladies of English Lit. Love Her!

  4. He is pretty darn dreamy. LOVE the ending. I also loved the book, though it is very chunky.

  5. "Look back a me. "

    He kills me EVERY TIME he does that! or when he accidently touches her hand when she gives him tea. *siiigh* I love P&P and Jane Eyre, but North & South is just so much more brilliant in the sense that its complexity is astounding. It's not JUST a love story. (I'm a romance junkie so this coming from me is like whoaaaa). Also, how perfect was his expression when Nicholas told him that Fred was her brother? His face just lit up with that realization.

    I love the ending! When he's like, "You don't need Henry to explain" ;DDD Auuugh, I could rave about this movie forevvveeeer.

  6. Look back...Look back at me!

    Damn it Margaret..just look back.

    Totally swoon-worthy movie.

  7. Ana, that scene absolutely slays me. Come ON, Margaret! LOOK BACK!

    Raspberry, oh, it's not even funny how much hotter he is than Colin Firth...

    I'm happy to hear that about the book. Will definitely be picking it up.

    Rebecca, thanks for the rec! I am all over getting the book.

    Melissa, indeed. The ending completely sealed the deal for me. I couldn't believe how good it was.

    pirate penguin, LOL. Raving is welcome here. And each one of those moments is awesome. I love that line at the end, "You don't need Henry to explain." *sigh* Finally, some taking control of the situation. And so much expressed in that single statement...

    Mandi, totally swoon-worthy. Why doesn't she look back?!? *gnashes teeth*

  8. oh my goodness this sounds fantastic! I love anything by the BBC. I really like Richard Armitage too. He replaced Rupert Penery Jones in MI5, which I didn't think anyone could do well!

  9. I love North and South! Your post made me want to watch it all over again... The book is great too; it also focuses a lot on another layer of social conflict that the miniseries didn't really emphasize (traditional gentry vs. new money) and their differing views of respectability/being a "gentleman."

    PS. If you haven't seen it yet, this is an amazing North and South/Pride and Prejudice mashup music video:

  10. My sis-in-law Whitney loved this movie so much, she sent me a copy of it for Mother's Day. It's one of my faves! Glad you like it, too!

  11. Heehee. Yes, spread the word! People need to watch this movie. I really need to make my mom watch this one too, but every time I suggest she goes on about how she hates to sit still for movies. But I KNOW she will love it, ahhhh!!

  12. Anonymous3:27 PM

    Smoking Hot!

    I adored North and South. After watching the BBC adaption, I went ahead and read it, too. I love it when there's such great on-screen chemistry!


  13. I too, loved this adaptation (although I haven't read the book, either).

    In fact, I'm having my aunt watch this with me and we're halfway through. I've also already given this to my best friend to watch and she loved it! :D

    Off topic, but I had a nagging feeling I'd seen Denby-Ashe somewhere, but I couldn't quite place her. I thought and thought about it until it hit me that she was the daughter in the BBC sitcom My Family! She was a little younger and blonde, but I recognized her from when I watched it on BBC America, lol! She plays a selfish, stuck-up teenager, total 180 for North and South. :D

  14. Love, love, love this film too. This might be one of the only cases though where I like the movie better than the book...and it's not just because Richard Armitage is so smoking hot. :) I think that in some ways, the novel was a telling of a good story, but maybe not the writing that made me rush through the book with anticipation. I don't know if that makes sense? Anyway, I totally agree about the film...LOVE it. (BTW, you'll have to catch Armitage as Guy Gisborne in the BBC TV series Robin Hood...he's decked out in leather for most of the show. LOL.)

  15. I love this movie. Oh my gosh, the ending is superb. I have read the book. The book is good too, but the movie...ahhh!. I want to watch it now.

  16. So, we've picked this as one of our book club reads this year, and I can't wait to show my book club clips, including the ending, as part of our discussion. Maybe we should have a whole movie watching bonus night... but I'm not sure how to fit it all in!

  17. P.S. Have you ever watched Wives and Daughters, the movie from Elizabeth Gaskell's other big book? Another amazing ending. Wow.

  18. I've heard the movie is better than the book, but I have never read it. The movie though is a classic.....yum! I'm interested to see if you like the book.

  19. Anonymous8:44 PM

    This is one of those fabulous movies that, in my opinion, improves upon the original book. I know! Totally backwards-but it's true!
    I'm not saying the book wasn't great, but-yeah. Actually SEEING Richard Armitage definitely beats just picturing him.
    Neooo. ;)

  20. I am so in love with this movie & book. Since I've watched it so many times, the husband calls it "up and down" which kind of describes the roller coaster of emotion too...

    "Look back"... how romantic, but my personal favorite is 'your mother will say "that woman!"

    happy sigh.

  21. Fun post! I liked the book and loved the movie. Naturally there were some liberties taken in the adaptation, especially with the ending, but none that I minded. I can understand why people would think the movie is better, though.

    I'd recommend Wives and Daughters as well. Although Gaskell died before it was completed, it's still an excellent read.

  22. Alexa, you really must check it out then! If you're already an Armitage fan, then it's a sure thing. :)

    Jennifer, lol! Thanks for that video link. I'd never seen it before.

    Kristi, I can see Whitney loving this one. We should all get together and watch it sometime. :)

    Janice, I'm spreading the good word! And you will have to tie your mom down and force her. She'll thank you later for sure.

    Sharry, that last scene...chemistry.

    Samantha, ooh, you're watching it as we speak! How very exciting.

    Becky, decked out in leather you say? *fans self*

    Haiku Amy, hehe. Hope you get to indulge soon.

    Suey, I vote for you adding on a movie watch night. I would love that as a coda to the book group discussion. I have WIVES AND DAUGHTERS sitting on my shelf, but I haven't seen the movie yet. Should I wait until I read it?

    Liz, you knew of this movie and did not tell me?!? I can't believe it. ;)

    Rachel, you can join me on the obsession-denial bench. *hums* Nothing to see here. Move along, now.

    Michelle, I love his nickname for it. But it's so true! The first time through I was like, there is no way this can end well. Will someone please smile at someone soon, for the love of all that is holy! lol.

    Holly, I may cut my teeth on WIVES AND DAUGHTERS as I already have it on my shelf and I've heard many good things.

  23. Anonymous11:54 AM

    Oh, Angie, this is one of my favorites. I bought two copies of the DVD (one to keep at my parents' so I can watch if I get the urge while I'm visiting) and a copy of the book. I love their first meeting in the book. It's worth reading just for that because you know what John's thoughts are about Margaret.

    I don't have BBC-A so I couldn't watch him in Robin Hood, but my friend fell in love with him watching that show.


  24. Double Swoon. I love North and South. A friend brought over this movie and I was expecting the Civil War tv series and was pleasantly surprised with the BBC movie. I could not get this movie out of my head either. I instantly read the book and for once I think I think a movie was better than a book. Maybe it is just he utter manly sex appeal of the actor?

  25. Karen, so smart with the two copies in strategic places! I will definitely be reading that first encounter scene. :)

    Jess, lol, he's worth a double. And I'll reserve judgement till after I've read the book, but I'm leaning toward a yes on Armitage making the difference.

  26. Love it. Love him too. Maybe a little too much sometimes. There's lots of mention of the ending but it was the proposal that blew me away. Gnar!

  27. I have never seen this, the only place I ever see it mentioned is on blogs. I might have to seek out a copy soon though.

  28. I loooooooved that North & South adaptation!! I still have yet to read it though. The book's been sitting on my TBR shelf for a long time. I can't get myself to read it yet 'cause every time I feel like it, I find myself gravitating towards watching it again. Hellloooooo Richard Armitage! :D

  29. Ragtag, ah, the proposal scene. *cringe* It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Just like in P&P. The pain....the PAIN!

    Lisa, do! And don't wait! It's simply wonderful....;)

    Pissenlit, lol, I can definitely relate. I want to read it. I just could see myself veering off toward the television on my way to the library. Richard...

  30. Oh my WORD, I love this movie.

    I particularly like that you get to see it from both his and her sides, rather than just her side like you do in Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice.

    It's so much more fun knowing that he LOVES her, when she doesn't.

    And how much do I love Nicholas? I think the character development in this movie is just to die for.

  31. Janssen, I knew you would be a fan! *happy* On my second viewing I really appreciated both points of view. My gosh, he loves her, he LOVES her!

    And Nicholas is so wonderful.

  32. Oh, Angie.
    I have just finished watching this, and I had to sign on here and tell you about it because NO ONE ELSE WILL UNDERSTAND. lol.
    Thankfully, the library in my county stocks dvd's, and I was stoked when I found out they had North & South.
    I waited until Friday night to watch (since I have work in the mornings and it is 4 HOURS LONG).
    So good.
    I mean, so incredibly awesome and amazingly effing good.
    I am still swooning from Mr. Armitage's performance and Margaret's independence.

    Basically, thank you for introducing me.
    I must share it now with all of my friends. :)
    Hope you are well.

    1. Your comment made me ridiculously happy, Whitney. I assure you, I UNDERSTAND. ;)

      Have any of your friends become as enamored as we are?

  33. Thank you for recommending North and South. As soon as I read this, I immediately put it on hold. Today I finally got to watch it. I absolutely loved it! It was fantastic. Now I have to read the book. I don't know if I ever would have found it without your review, so thank you.

    1. Katy, absolutely my pleasure. I'm deeply indebted to my friend who first brought it to my attention and gave me a copy of the DVD.

  34. I'm so glad I finally watched North and South! I LOVED it! The botched proposal just about broke my heart! Then when she's leaving and he says to himself "look back" I just about died! Now I will have to by this book!

    1. Rebs, that proposal scene just about finished me off. I was like, things have GOT to get better and they have got to get better FAST! Ahh!

      I can't even think about the "Look back" scene without swooning. Wowsers.

  35. Anonymous1:06 PM

    I adore this book and this movie adaptation of it. Richard Armitage is perfectly cast...I could watch it again and again!

    Stiletto Storytime

    1. He is perfection, Courtney. Bless that BBC casting team. Seriously.

  36. You've won me over, I will watch this! :)

    1. YES! lol. Please let me know when you do.

  37. I just started school this week, but had taken out this DVD from the library the week before. I'd heard good things and decided to give it a try. Little did I know, I would lose 4 hours plus of sleep watching this series! I should have been in bed at 2AM in the morning, but instead I was watching dreamy Thornton and Margaret through the early hours of morning. Needless to say, there was no sleep! Not that I mind, this was so worth it :D Glad to know I'm not the only one obsessed!

    The ending stands now as one even better than Pride and Prejudice and I LOVE that movie! The only film that has ever come close to competing with P&P was Jane Eyre, but North and South totally dominates.

    1. Judith, lol. It takes you utterly by surprise, no matter how much praise you've heard going in. I wasn't prepared AT ALL. Happily, it's worth losing sleep over.

      I completely agree on the ending. It stands up to all those others without even breaking a sweat.

  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

  39. I just came across your blog, Angie, and I already love it. I am a huge fan of the Patrick Swayze North & South and when I saw this BBC version, I was initially a little confused. (And ashamed, as how could I not realize there are other norths and souths in the world!) The photo is what caught my eye because I know this actor as Lucas on MI-5- a fantastic television series. Anyway, you hooked me and I must read the book and then watch this adaptation. Thanks!

    1. Oh, thanks so much, Juliana! I haven't watched MI-5 yet. I need to bump it up in my To Be Watched queue. Definitely let me know once you've watched this N&S. SO GOOD.

  40. I have been watching a number of BBC productions lately and I must say that watching this TV mini series (it is NOT a movie) left me speeches! I had to watch it again....and again! I've since listen to the unabridged audio vision of the book. Being a visual person, I loved the TV version because the excellent cast. I ave to confess that I am now officially obsessed with Richard Armitage and have watched a lot of movies and TV dramas he has done.

    Oh by the way, there are a number of "fan fiction" novels that continue the story of North and South after the credits rolled. Remember, the original novel that Elizabeth Haskell wrote did not end the way she wanted because her publisher wanted the book "now" and she had to end it abruptly. These many fan fiction books reflect how many felt the story should have ended. The best one I "A Heart for Milton."


Post a Comment

You Might Also Like

Review | To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn

The first book to make it onto my best books I've read so far this year list was actually a surprise. Thanks to Bridgerton's massive success, Julia Quinn's name is everywhere these days. And I'm chuffed about the whole thing. That said, my Quinn reading up to this point has been sporadic at best. And I'd only read two novels in the actual Bridgerton series. So I decided to rectify that at the beginning of the year by starting with Eloise's story (the fifth in the series) because she is my uncontested favorite of the siblings. I had no idea what her story held, but I knew she would be a compelling lead. I also love the title and the role that letters play in the story.   Eloise Bridgerton is tired of everything. She is tired of the endless inane whirl of life among the ton. She is tired of being paraded around and forced to dance and converse with all the wrong men. But most of all she is tired of being suddenly and unexpectedly alone after her best friend Penelo

Interview with Diana Peterfreund + Rampant Giveaway!

Ever since I fell in love with Diana Peterfreund 's Secret Society Girl series last year, I've been hoping I'd get the chance to interview her here. Tomorrow marks the release of her new novel, Rampant , and let me tell you that you have not read a book like this before. You can read my review here , but all you really need to know is that it's a story about killer unicorns and the young women who hunt them. You want to read it now, don't you? Oh, yeah, and it's YA and the first in a series! To celebrate the release, Diana graciously answered a few of my most burning questions. As she is always a delight, I know you'll enjoy them as much as I did. First things first: When did the idea for Rampant first hit you and what (if anything) did you know right off the bat? In early 2005, just after selling Secret Society Girl , I had this dream of being chased by a very dangerous unicorn. I woke up and went to go look it up to see if I could figure out the meanin

Bibliocrack Review | You Should Be So Lucky by Cat Sebastian

If I'm being perfectly honest with myself, I've done a shamefully poor job of addressing my love for Cat Sebastian 's books around these parts. I've certainly noted each time her beautiful stories have appeared on my end-of-the-year best of lists, see:  The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes ,  basically every book in  The Cabots series , and of course  We Could Be So Good .  And the pull is, quite simply, this: nobody is as kind and gentle with their characters and with their hearts than Cat Sebastian. Nobody. I haven't always been one for the gentler stories, but I cannot overstate the absolute gift it is sinking into one of Sebastian's exquisitely crafted historicals knowing that I get to spend the next however many pages watching two idiots pine and deny that feelings exist and just  take care of each other  as they fall in love. I wouldn't trade that experience for the world. Not this one or any other.  Only two things in the world people count by months. H