Margaret of the North is a sequel to Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. It begins where the BBC miniseries on Gaskell’s novel ends. In the 1800s, industrialization is changing the economy and challenging social and gender roles.
John Thornton and Margaret Hale marry. They honeymoon in a vibrant mid-century Paris where a revolution in art is happening. As Impressionism takes hold, cafés are the place to be. They go to art shows. Join Parisians as they stroll in the parks and along the river. Sit for hours in cafés.
They visit Margaret’s brother, Frederick, and his Spanish wife in Cadiz. There, John and Margaret learn about siestas and the delights of easy living. These new experiences in Paris and Cadiz are eye-opening, more for John than for Margaret. Used to work, he sees more clearly the need to play.
Back in England, the love between Margaret and John continues to be deep and lasting. Full of small touches and lovely little moments. But Margaret faces life in a harsh bustling northern city. She has new problems to deal with.
Some are created by modernity and industrialization. More troubling is how to relate to a hostile and jealous mother-in-law.
Thornton is not as sensitive as his wife to the needs of cotton mill workers. On Margaret’s coaxing, he learns to care more. He supports her efforts to build a medical clinic and a school for workers’ children. He also embarks on his own projects for his factory workers.
Thornton and Margaret step over the bounds of what society expects. Can doing so lead them into new ways of meeting each other? Of treating the other more as a unique individual? Not one merely conforming to a rigid role?
To many, Victorian feminist is an oxymoron. But she did exist. Margaret of the North resurrects Gaskell’s feminist-leaning themes and shows Margaret as a budding feminist.