I watched the BBC production of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South the other day. John Thornton, or, rather, Richard Armitage as John Thornton, is my new favorite romantic hero. Look at him — just look at him!
A privileged middle-class girl raised in [Victorian] rural southern England gets a rude awakening to the world when a family move forces her to contend with the unseemly inhabitants of a northern mill town in director Brian Percival’s adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s timeless love story. Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) is the daughter of a middle-class parson and a girl accustomed to decidedly refined company. When her family is uprooted and forced to move to the northern mill town of Milton, the prim and proper country girl is notably contemptuous of her new working class neighbors – and especially of charismatic mill owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage).
This mini-series is also the very rare occasion when one can say that the movie is better than the book. Elizabeth Gaskell’s books are notoriously overwrought, and North and South is a good example of why Gaskell’s reputation has foundered while Charles Dickens’ has remained on solid ground — Gaskell is much less readable.
Also, there’s no pictures of Richard Armitage in the book, nor is he speaking John Thornton’s lines, so there’s that to be overcome.