The Story of North and South Continues
by Chrissie Elmore
Genre: Historical Romance
Think of Manchester in the mid-nineteenth century and mention Margaret Hale & John Thornton to people and many will immediately tell you how they fell in love with North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. For them, this will be an extension of the extreme pleasure they had the first time around.
However, readers unfamiliar with this enduring classic, need not turn away. The novel stands alone and only entices them to discover the back-story. As the author has discarded Mrs. Gaskell’s much-disliked ending (even by herself), John and Margaret’s struggles continue. Will they ever truly understand one another? Or will their opposing ethics and social prejudice force them to seek companionship with more appropriate partners?
Written in the original’s Victorian style, the frenetic city, and the original participants all stay true to Mrs. Gaskell’s creation, while contemporary events and new characters both help and hinder John and Margaret’s progress towards a conclusion.
Chrissie Elmore’s Unmapped Country: The Story of North and South Continues starts off from the chapter-before-the-last-chapter of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South, or Chapter LI (51 as 52 would be the final chapter).
Besides continuing from the book, it is also loosely based on the 2004 BBC adaptation starring Daniella Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage, without the ending the mini-series opted to use which, during that time, would have left both their reputations in ruins. Unmapped Country also uses some of the characters introduced in the series, like Mr. Latimer, the banker, and his daughter, Miss Latimer. Elmore writes the book close to the way Gaskell wrote it, which means it was written in the vein of the time. You could literally read Gaskell’s book, skip the final chapter and continue with Elmore’s book without missing a beat.
Unmapped Country: The Story of North and South Continues follows the travails of two characters – Margaret Hale, now a wealthy heiress, and John Thornton, a mill owner who has recently been forced to shut down his own cotton mill due to the economic climate. It follows each character’s journey to certain realizations about life and each other, despite a proud mother unwilling to let go of her son to someone as spirited as the very woman who saves her son’s business, and a society stuck on how this class or that class of people should act and what rightly deserve.
Oh, the many missteps they encounter just to get to first base were so frustrating yet charming at times, but it built up the excitement as I continued to read the book.
It was also nice to read the growing awareness Margaret develops in the struggle to pair her moral ethics with the decisions she has to make regarding her investments and there were a few instances where I found myself saying, “you can’t save the world and stay wealthy at the same time!” – something I’m sure Bill and Belinda Gates are often faced with themselves (on second thought – probably not).
It is a well-researched book about the Industrial Revolution, one that got me digging into my garage for my own book on the Industrial Revolution – only to realize that I may have given it away to the local library by accident. I like books that do give me enough background of the times, especially if I’m unfamiliar with said times. And though the narrative often gets bogged down by the research Elmore has made, the events flow from one to the other, eventually culminating in an event that brought tears to my eyes (quite unexpectedly) and gave me goosebumps (again, unexpectedly) and finally to its charming, much-awaited conclusion.
Unmapped Country: The Story of North and South Continues was one of the many North & South themed books I found on Amazon, written mostly by fans of the BBC miniseries and Richard Armitage. While some of the books focused primarily on marital relations or the continuation of their love story, I picked this book because the reviewers said it was the one closest to Gaskell’s vision and way of writing – which worked for me.