Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

North and South 2005

Ok, two words here.  Mr. Thornton.  He is sexy on the page, and he is very sexy in this 2005 adaptation. Two more words.  Richard Armitage. His Mr. Thornton could replace Mr. Darcy for you

Now that I have got your attention, I will tell you a bit more about this brilliant book/adaptation.  This is not Jane Austen, nor is it the 1985 civil war mini-series with Patrick Swayze, but was written by Elizabeth Gaskell, Mrs. Gaskell as she is commonly known.  

Mrs. Gaskell was the wife of a Manchester clergyman and wrote this in 1855 in Victorian England. In North and South, she explores the relationship between Margaret Hale, a cultured woman in “reduced circumstances” from the pastoral South of England and a slightly less refined man, Mr. Thornton, from the industrial North of England who has worked his way up to owning his own cotton mill. He has money, but is “in trade”, and not a real gentleman in her eyes.  Oh, she has a lot to learn. He certainly is a real man Margaret...

A few of Mrs. Gaskell’s other works have been recently adapted also (Wives and Daughters, Cranford).  This one is my favourite of the three, and only by a hair as the other two are amazing as well.  It may have something to do with Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Mr. Thornton. His silky voice and the way he carries himself in those suits and collars.....  Whew, it just got really warm in this room.

Mr. Thornton and Miss Margaret Hale at Thornton Mills

Be warned however, that this comes off a bit dark on the first viewing.  Mrs. Gaskell was well acquainted with the working class struggles in Manchester and wrote them into this story.  So you get a romance blossoming and an amazing social commentary which is fascinating to watch, but not always pretty.  So don’t just watch this one once and put it away.  First of all, you will have to watch the ending at least three times as once is not enough. Thankfully, the ending has been posted on You Tube, so if you need a fix and can’t watch the whole film, you can have a little moment with Mr. Thornton anytime you like.  This one grows on you slowly to become a favourite, so watch it at least twice.  And please don’t judge Mr. Thornton too harshly from the opening of the miniseries.  My only quibble with Sandy Welch, the screenwriter, is that she made him rather violent to his workers, in order to justify Margaret’s initial dislike, but he is not so callous in the book.

Daniela Denby-Ashe as Miss Margaret Hale

Daniela Denby-Ashe does a great job of playing Margaret Hale, the daughter of a clergyman from Southern England, who feels obliged to give up his parish because of some religious doubts and finds himself forced to be a teacher in the industrial North of England.  Miss Hale and Mr. Thornton don’t quite hit it off at first, not a big surprise for a romance.  The whole story is very rich, and I am glad they gave it the length of a miniseries to develop. The entire cast is solid, with Tim Pigott-Smith as Margaret’s slightly befuddled father, Sinead Cusack as the steely matron Mrs. Thornton, the always amazing Anna Maxwell Martin as Margaret’s new friend Bessy, and Brendan Coyle as Bessy’s father. There isn’t a weak actor in the entire production.

Sandy Welch was the screenwriter for this one, and she now commands some real respect after doing a great job with this, with Our Mutual Friend, a fabulous version of Jane Eyre and with the most recent Emma.  She is my new hero!

"Look back. Look back at me!"....Swoon!
This is also one of these adaptations which really sends you to the book after watching it.  The book is very similar but of course gives a more complete view of the story, as well as a slightly different but just as satisfying ending.

North and South has a special place in my DVD library and from looking at the postings on the Internet, I am not alone.  So enjoy this one........

"It is you who would be doing me the service."...Indeed!

By the way, 2010 is the bicentenary of Mrs. Gaskell’s birth and The Gaskell Society is planning a year full of events.  There is also a current restoration of the Elizabeth Gaskell House at 84 Plymouth Grove in Manchester which had previously fallen into disrepair and is now going to be reopened partly as a museum and partly to be used for community events and gatherings, which would probably have pleased Mrs. Gaskell.


  1. How has no one commented on this great mini-series and your great tribute to it.
    So great to share this love. Where is Daniela Denby-Ashe, I wish we could see more of her and Richard Armitage of course, who is more present, so we are blessed. But where is she?

  2. Hi Jena!
    Thanks so much for your comment. I have adored North and South for years. Actually, I am re-reading the book for the umpteenth time right now.

    You probably know Richard Armitage is filming The Hobbit right now and hopefully you were drooling over him in Spooks/MI5 (I certainly was!)

    And Daniela Denby-Ashe does a lot of British TV. She is most well known for the series My Family, which if you haven't seen is hilarious. I'd love to see her in more films!

  3. Hi Jenny,
    It took me a while to think about and write something that would suits the tremendous ‘North and South’. I couldn’t come up with an appropriate way of expressing my love for both the novel and the film. So this is what came into my mind because I still can’t believe why there are not more comments here.

    How I fell in love with it straight away. This is probably one of the adaptations that I enjoy going back to once in a while and like thinking about more than once in a while (though I must admit that my first love was Pride and Prejudice from 1995, but whose wasn’t?). I started watching it again last week because of your blog. There is so much to enjoy in this marvellous miniseries, from plot, setting to acting and music (great as a ringtone for my and maybe your mobile too), etc.
    It’s not only Margaret and Thornton’s great love story (and I must admit that Richard Armitage’s great presence in this is a huge plus and it is such a pleasure watching and listening to the adorable Daniela Denby-Ashe whom I love as well) or the wonderfully romantic ending. ‘North and South’ features so much more, it shows two sides of very human needs of the beginnings of industrial England. The individual story of mill workers and their conditions but also the understanding for the needs of some masters whose life also depended on the working of the mill and hence their workers.
    The ever evil Tim Pigott-Smith is most wonderful as Mister Hale to Lesley-Manville’s so delicate Mrs Hale, not to speak of Sinead Cusack’s enormous presence as Mrs. Thornton.
    Is it weird, if I say that I found Brendan Coyle quite sexy in this. Am I alone here?…

    Once again, your blog is FANTASTIC, Jenny.

    PS: Isn't it wonderful watching something for the first time not knowing anything about the actors or the story and then discover a jewel like this.

  4. Hi Rena,

    I am so glad to know that others love North & South as much as I do. I also knew nothing about this when I first saw it. I think it was just an online recommendation from some wise person (likely in the UK) that interested me in this. And as much as I enjoyed it on first viewing, I think it was the second or third time through that I truly appreciated what I was watching. From Elizabeth Gaskell's story to Sandy Welch's screenplay to the acting and scenery, this adaptation is brilliant! You called it a jewel and I wholeheartedly agree. Next time I have a migraine or a sick day, this one is going on.

    By the way, Brendan Coyle is pretty adorable. If I could only take my eyes off of Mr. Thornton...

  5. Hi Jenny,
    You know what I did? I saw that some people who - I think it was "Jane Eyre" (with Ruth Wilson) - were recommending "North & South". I looked at Richard Armitage's profile on imdb, what he had done, what he looked like, whether he might be able to keep my interest. I did the same with Daniela-Denby-Ashe, though there was less on her. I started watching the first couple of minutes (Edith's wedding) and then stop again for some reason, rewatch it at some other point, stop again until taking the time to watch the first episode (that's what I thought I'd be doing, stopping after the first one...) and got so hooked on N&S and still am. And here we are.
    To be honest, I am glad I didn't know too much about it.

  6. Hi Rena,

    There is something transfixing about this production isn't there? It just draws you right in! I love the way the online Period Drama community helps like minded individuals find other things to watch. We are all keeping the BBC in business I think.
    You have inspired me to add some photos to this old post. I still like what I have written, but it needs some visual appeal. My blogging style has changed since last year!

  7. I love this mini series. It's one of my favorites. And I adore Richard Armitage's performance in it! You are so right about the last scene--it's wonderful and swoon worthy.

    1. Hi Syrie, I love your books! Thanks for stopping by. I think I may have to watch the final scene of North and South again. Listening to Richard Armitage's voice is a great way to end the week.

  8. This drama is a bit dark and grim at times, but I love the relationship between Margaret and Thornton and the ending is lovely! Enjoy! :) xx

  9. This is my favorite! Loved your review and now I will have to watch it again... so glad I stumbled on your blog

    1. Hi Plain Graces. Welcome to my blog! I loaned my copy to a co-worker who still has it. I have to get it back, as I am in withdrawal! A long winter deserves a miniseries like this one!

  10. I have never swooned as hard as I did during that ending. Part of the adaptation's strength is that the relationship between Mr. Thornton and Margaret is not just typical period piece romantic but in fact genuinely sexy, and you can feel their tension. At the end it just explodes all over the screen.

    The voice too. "You're coming home with me?" Perfect actor, perfect role.

  11. Loved reading this post. Though Pride & Prejudice is usually shown as the most popular period drama (I do love that one too), I have always treasured N&S as my own favorite. Apart from the fact that RA as Mr. Thornton really blew me away, I also liked the intimate depiction of both sides of the society of those times. And who doesn't like that last scene at the train station? :-) I think RA would do full justice to any period drama. I would love to see him as Sir Percy in Scarlet Pimpernel!




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