The book is a social novel that tries to show the industrial North and its conflicts in the mid-19th century as seen by an outsider, a socially sensitive lady from the South. The heroine of the story, Margaret Hale, is the daughter of a Nonconformist minister who moves to the fictional industrial town of Milton after leaving the Church of England. The town is modeled after Manchester, where Gaskell lived as the wife of a Unitarian minister. Gaskell herself worked among the poor and knew at first hand the misery of the industrial areas.
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About the Author
Tremendously popular in her lifetime, the books of the English author Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) have often been overshadowed by her contemporaries the Brontës and George Eliot. Yet the reputation of her long-neglected masterpiece Wives and Daughters continues to grow. Gaskell wrote six novels in all — of which North and South and Cranford remain two of the best known — as well as numerous short stories, novellas, and a biography of her great friend Charlotte Brontё.