As part of the celebration of North and South I am contributing my review of Master of the Mill by Cate Toward.
Caty and I had a chat awhile back discussing her take on Thornton.
I started reading this story when it was first serialized and the way she wrote Thornton had me visualizing Armitage as Guy of Gisborne.
When it was published last January I was able to read it all the way through and appreciate her take on the story.
We find ourselves at the beginning of this story in Northern Milton. Margaret has lost her mother, Mr. Hale his wife and they are in dire straits due to the loss of Mrs. Hale’s annuity. Nevertheless Margaret is determined to supplement their income instead of relying on relatives. Mr. Bell had suggested Milton but left for the West Indies upon their arrival.
This is the North and South that will shock Mrs. Gaskell
This story has the infamous incident of The Master beating a worker portrayed in the 2004 BBC adaptation written by screen writer Sandy Welch presumably to advance the plot and make the instant dislike of Margaret clear. And of course Margaret challenges him, dislikes him instantly but recognizes an odd sensation she can’t place …
“He looked like the Angel Gabriel, dressed in black, tall, commanding, powerful, ready.” from Ch 1
This is the North and South where Mr. Thornton isn’t a virgin nor a monk!
We meet Thornton in a liaison with Lydia Slickson, the renamed Ann Latimer from the adaptation, written in for plot purposes. Our master has found a way to blow off his stress
“He looked critically at her evaluating the pleasure she offered against the time wasted away from his work.” Ch 2
This is the North and South where Margaret gets to work in the mill, … under cover😉
Margaret decides it isn’t below her to find quarters amongst the mill workers and she becomes rapidly friends with Bessie as neighbor and companion. It’s Bessie who suggests it could be done for her to work without the master taking notice.
“To get one over on a master, tis a fine joke. Provided ‘e don’t take offence if all is discovered.” Ch 4
This is the North and South where there is a ball!
A ball!! Who doesn’t love a ball?
“You dance well, sir” He laughed, raised an eyebrow and leaned in to her, whispering, “I have not stood upon your toes yet, I count that a small victory against nature.” Ch 9
This is the North and South where we have intrigue!
Because I don’t want to be any more spoilery you’ll have to read it but I thought it a clever even if familiar twist.
What makes this a fun read, is when the imagery of the adaptation comes in my mind. I certainly recognize some scenes and lines but sometimes the context is different.
Caty’s authentic use of the workers dialect gives the story weight. I only wished we had more back story in setting up Thornton differently as most of us know him or making Margaret’s circumstances slightly more believable.
I hope one day she will publish Ricky Deeming’s story The Road