Sunday, February 14, 2010
The Elizabeth Gaskell Collection
Appropriately for Valentine's Day would be this DVD series that I found in early January inspired by an author I had never heard of before. Because of how much I had been enjoying all of the different versions of Jane Austen's stories made into mini-series and movies by assorted producers, I thought I'd take a chance on buying, at Costco, the Elizabeth Gaskell Collection of a similar time period and set of themes.
Elizabeth Gaskell was a writer of the mid-1800s who was married to a vicar and took up writing originally as a way to deal with grief at the loss of one of her children. Her writing was originally intended to be portraits of a culture and lifestyle which she knew intimately. She ended up writing some lovely romances but they are more than romances at least in so far as the miniseries go.
Although Jane Austen wrote her stories before Elizabeth Gaskell, you cannot help but think they are soul sisters for the way they connected with their characters, the life they put into their stories. As much as I love the Jane Austen stories, and I do, I think the ones by Elizabeth Gaskell are better but mostly because they portray more of a slice of life at the same time as a romance.
I liked all three miniseries adaptations in this collection, North & South, Cranford, and Wives & Daughters. My favorite, which didn't start out that way, ended up being North & South which is about the industrialization of England and its impact on the people.
In the mid 1800s, the south represented gentility, closer to nature, quieter life. The north was raw dealing with the challenge of mechanization, poverty, education, and environmentally caused disease. The story illustrates the difficulties of the poverty stricken, but also the problems of the rich. It even addressed questions about unionization and economics. The love story rivals that of Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice.