Why I bought it? I had seen the BBC version with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe and adored it. If you haven't seen it yet, put it on your netflix queue. You'll thank me later. I got the Norton Critical Edition with all the footnotes and commentaries through Amazon.
Synopsis: Margaret Hale is uprooted from the idyllic life she has lived in the south of England and moves to the fictional town of Milton in the north when her minister father leaves the Church of England. The abrupt descent into relative poverty is very difficult for her as is the change of lifestyle from the agrarian south to the industrial north. She sympathizes with the workers in the cotton mills and their plight. When she meets the owner of one of the mills, Mr. Thornton, they clash over class issues. (This is different than the movie. It is much more subtle.) He falls for her, but she feels he's completely inappropriate for her. There are a lot of political and social issues along the way, but, ultimately, this is a story about love.
What I thought? I loved it. Some of the things that I didn't like in the movie were different in the book. Very nice. I love the Mr. Thornton in the book more than the one in the movie (even though I think Richard Armitage plays him brilliantly). It has a slow start and a quick finish, but despite those drawbacks, I still love it. Gaskell tells a wonderful story full of flawed, yummy characters. Even Charles Dickens liked Gaskell's work. (They were contemporaries.) Since I read it the first time (this was a reread), I've read all of Gaskell's finished novels, and all were enjoyable--some more than others.
My Rating: ***** out of 5
Cleanness Score: 3 out of 10, This is more for themes than anything else. I thought about giving it a 2, but there is some violence and a suicide (off scene) and several natural deaths. It's a book intended for an adult audience, but I wouldn't have a problem with my teens reading it.