Read Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell Online


This is Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel, a widely acclaimed work based on the actual murder, in 1831, of a progressive mill owner. It follows Mary Barton, daughter of a man implicated in the murder, through her adolescence, when she suffers the advances of the mill owner, and later throughlove and marriage. Set in Manchester, between 1837-42, it paints a powerful and movinThis is Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel, a widely acclaimed work based on the actual murder, in 1831, of a progressive mill owner. It follows Mary Barton, daughter of a man implicated in the murder, through her adolescence, when she suffers the advances of the mill owner, and later throughlove and marriage. Set in Manchester, between 1837-42, it paints a powerful and moving picture of working-class life in Victorian England....

Title : Mary Barton
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780007449910
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 526 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Mary Barton Reviews

  • Henry Avila
    2019-06-24 18:23

    In the grim industrial city of Manchester, England around the latter part of the decade, of the 1830's, people are actually starving to death, especially the little ones... the poor parents cannot feed... those...Murder follows as naturally as water flows to the lowest level... A love triangle ensues between the amorous competitors , Jem Wilson a working -class engineer and Henry Carson, the son of a wealthy businessman for the affections of the delightful Miss Mary Barton , (she has high ambitions) but will not end well. Her father's feelings of great hatred , keeps the secret second man, a secret ... Still the most weak and vulnerable, the children continue to succumb quietly in their small beds, as the mothers and fathers look helplessly , and slowly the shrunken bodies, fade away. Trade brings prosperity but when there is none the opposite arrives... bleakness. Elizabeth Gaskell gives light to the dark and confronts the establishment , who don't want the rays to show the ugly. YET IT EXISTS, nobody cares , parliament kicks the can down the road, since the members have a full stomach, let others interested take the initiative, citizens die everyday, so what is the problem ? This novel about the Barton and Wilson families, drab lives, revealed to the public the suffering of the wretched to a society that did not want to know. Mary Barton the pretty daughter of a radical union organizer, John Barton, who blames the rich bosses for the many deaths, that have occurred ( beloved wife included) , is in the middle of an unending struggle, she must take sides, love or family. As politics rears its head, the truth vanishes too, as is always the custom. If your beliefs are not correct then change the facts...after a while you will not notice the difference, anything of blackness, as the town's air usually is. A splendid book for those who like to visit the not always great past, a joyous experience it isn't to be sure, but a necessary one. Be warned though, the story like other Victorian novels is quite hard going, painful in spots for the casual readers, than again life is the same...

  • Jessica
    2019-05-31 20:56

    Mary Barton is a wonderful failure of a novel, in all of the classic Victorian ways–the love plot is overwrought, the ending is melodramatic, the moralizing is far too heavy, and the epigraphs are obnoxious. But, somehow, in the middle of all those problems, Elizabeth Gaskell manages to capture perfectly something important. Mary Barton is a "Condition of England" novel, a meditation on the plight of Manchester cotton weavers in the depression of the early 1840's. This is the Manchester of Freidrich Engels, where people live in squalor so deep that it surpasses comprehension. Engels, however, in what I've read from his account, utterly dehumanizes the people he examines. The citizens of his Manchester slums almost literally become their own excrement. Gaskell, on the other hand, has faced an onslaught of criticism for her "tidy" Manchester. Her very "tidiness" though, makes her message more effective. She cuts away the filth, but not the starvation or disease that haunted Manchester. She suppresses the reality only enough to draw out sympathy from an audience who understood child mortality, say, in a way that they didn't understand inadequate sewage systems. She denies the terror of Manchester life only enough to make it more imaginable. Gaskell's Manchester is, at its surface, a relentlessly didactic world–a constant circle of learning one's Christian Duty–but the didacticism is founded on something that, somehow, seems more genuinely human than anything Dickens or Eliot ever manage to find.

  • Mary
    2019-06-04 20:12

    How to Tell if You are in an Elizabeth Gaskell novel:1. Someone you love just died.2. You live in an industrial wasteland, which is wrapped in a peculiarly permanent winter.3. Your father makes terrible decisions. You love him unconditionally.4. Someone just dropped dead.5. You believe that starving, striking workers and their capitalist oppressors could remedy vast structural inequalities by having tea together.6. You just spurned a man. Immediately, you realize that you are actually in love with him. But it would be unfeminine to say so.7. You are very, very hungry.8. Typhoid.9. Your friends are spinsters. One of them dresses her cow in flannel. You find this endearing.10. You, your future spouse, and some spinsters are the only people still alive.

  • Kim
    2019-06-07 22:59

    This was Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel and it shows. It's signficantly less assured than her better known works, North and South, Cranford and Wives and Daughters. The eponymous heroine is at times annoying (although she grows in stature as the work progresses) and the narrative has a number of those features which make some readers avoid Victorian fiction: a leisurely pace, wordiness, preachiness, sentimentality and melodrama. The novel starts very slowly. At the half-way mark the pace picks up and it turns into an interesting court room drama, which would be even more interesting if the outcome had not been predictable. The last quarter of the novel falls off somewhat, as Gaskell's preaching kicks into high gear. That said, Gaskell writes well and is a good storyteller, notwithstanding the signficant implausibility of some parts of the narrative, such as (view spoiler)[ the fact that all it takes for Mary to realise she is in love with Jem is to reject his proposal of marriage (hide spoiler)]. In addition, the setting of the novel - Manchester between 1837 and 1842, torn apart by industrial strife between mill owners and factory hands - is inherently interesting. Gaskell depicts the plight of the poor with sympathy, although her suggested cure for the devastating consequences of working class poverty - (view spoiler)[ an increase in philanthropic and charitable activities by the factory-owning class (hide spoiler)] - reveals her own social conservatism. Gaskell was not arguing for the abolition of either capitalism or the class system. Notwithstanding the weaknesses of the work, I very much enjoyed listening to the audiobook narrated by the truly wonderful Juliet Stevenson. Even when it was at its most predictable, the narrative still held my interest. It's not destined to be up there with my favourite Gaskell novels, but I still liked it a lot, somewhere between 3-1/2 and 4 stars worth.

  • Dolors
    2019-06-11 16:57

    After having read "North and South" quite a long time ago I had forgotten why this woman was a master in storytelling.Because it seems impossible that a novel written in the classic way, with long sentences and a "stiff" structure with ancient vocabulary and dealing with the pros and conts of the revolutionary working class in the industrial England of the late XIXth century, might engage the reader the way that "Mary Barton" does.Even with all these formal constraints Gaskell manages to transmit such contained emotion that sometimes I didn't realise I had stopped breathing with anxiety.Mary Barton is a working class girl, daughter of an impoverished widowed man. Her pretty face catches the attention of Mr. Carson one of the wealthy lads of Manchester and the possibility of seeing the end of their meagre existence leads her to dismiss her true love, Jem Wilson with dreadful consequences for all of them.Partly historical and sociological thriller which portrays the situation of a whole generation and the start of what we call progress in the working system. Deeply meaningful characters who will stick to your mind long after you have closed the book.Loved it!

  • K.
    2019-06-04 17:23

    Okay, I am turning into a major E. Gaskell fan. I absolutely loved this book. It was her first, and got a bit melodramatic in places, but I think she made it work. "North and South" was definitely better crafted, but this was just as good a story. Gaskell wrote at the same time as Dickens, Industrial Age Britian. She lived in Manchester (trade town) and knew the condiditions there very well. She does a great job at describing the real living circumstances of the rich and poor. The book is absolutely gripping in its portrayal of the very poor working people. Loved it. Will buy it.

  • ☯Emily
    2019-06-25 17:15

    I have never understood why Elizabeth Gaskell is not better known. She was a contemporary of Dickens and a much better writer. Both HARD TIMES by Dickens and MARY BARTON by Gaskell deal with the terrible plight of the working poor during the 1840s and 1850s. Gaskell's characters are realistically drawn as opposed to Dicken's exaggerated comical characters. Mrs. Gaskell shows how factory workers lived in terribly squalid conditions and the affect this had on Mary Barton's father. There is a murder which leads to a thrilling trial. The suspense was skillfully done, leaving me unwilling to put the book down. This novel should lead to an interest in the social and economic realities of England in the mid-1800s. An even cursory investigation will reveal that Mrs. Gaskell did not exaggerate the conditions or the squalor of that time. There are many deaths in the book, but that was the reality for the factory worker and his family.

  • Laura
    2019-06-11 17:02

    I'm calling this one read because it took me nearly three weeks to get just past the halfway point, and I don't think I'm a slow reader. Will I try it again? Probably, because I bought the book. But I don't recommend it to others.I really enjoy Gaskell's writing. But this book is so depressing. Maybe it gets better, but it's too much of a downer for me right now. I expected a love story with the social commentary off to the side. It's pretty much the opposite, and I'm not sure exactly where the love story is. It's in there somewhere, but it's probably hiding in the poverty, starvation and death. Another note: Why is this book called "Mary Barton"? She may be the main character, but I don't feel I know her well at all. She is a flat, "good" girl. I was really hoping she'd develop beyond that, but I haven't seen it after 220 pages, so I doubt I will at this point. I know her the least of any of the characters.This book is making a Point. And I agree with the Point! I agree very strongly. But I don't need to be beaten into a bloody pulp with it. Having given up this book, I feel like I've thrown a big rock off my back. Relief! If you choose to read this, realize going in that it's not an uplifting read, and then it may work much better for you.

  • Katie Lumsden
    2019-06-18 20:08

    As brilliant this time as it was the first. This is probably the most exciting and page-turner Victorian books out there, and is highly worth everybody's time.

  • Sarah
    2019-05-27 00:10

    This was a good enough book. I think it was a very good attempt at showcasing the social conflict of Gaskell's era. Most of her characters are complex and I think the writing was quite good. It just didn't grab me though and I found a lot of it to be uninteresting.

  • Erin
    2019-06-25 01:13

    First, I agree with other reviewers that Mary Barton is not quite of the same caliber as her other novels. Second, Mary Barton is not the most likeable of characters and it would have been nice if someone had hauled off and given her a good smack. On the other hand, once I started to read,it was impossible to put down!

  • Kathleen
    2019-06-15 23:11

    “Your heart would have ached to have seen the man, however hardly you might have judged his crime.”This is what fiction does for us—allows us to “see the man,” to walk in his shoes. In this story, we “see” Manchester, England in the 1830’s. We see a working man who is without work, a man who watched his son die from lack of nourishment. We see a young woman tempted to give up everything she loves for some basic comforts. We see their neighbors and friends struggle—not always successfully--to sustain their sanity and their lives.This all sounds very grim, but Gaskell has a hopeful style of writing that balances out the pain of her subject matter.It seems George Eliot considered this a “silly novel” (Gaskell and millinery novels were mentioned in her essay “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists.”) It sounds like she thought they lacked originality and that the writing did not demonstrate adequately the benefit of educating women. Eliot provides a wonderful demonstration of the value of education—her books are an education in themselves. But I get the feeling from reading both that Gaskell understands poverty from a closer viewpoint. So there’s value in both writers, of course.What makes this one good is not vivid characterization or beautiful passages of description. It is the attempt to accurately show the plight of the poor-- even when it is full of death and sorrow, to not turn your face from it. This comes through so strongly that it is mesmerizing.“Don’t think to come over me with the old tale, that the rich know nothing of the trials of the poor. I say, if they don’t know, they ought to know.”

  • Jennifer
    2019-06-04 18:57

    I love Gaskell’s writing (Wives and Daughters is one of my all-time favorites), and things were going swimmingly for the first half of Mary Barton. It’s about a group of working-class families living in Manchester, and brilliantly details the poverty and class tensions created by the Industrial Revolution. But from the middle onwards it becomes a glacial crime drama, and the ending chapters feature some of the least believable, most heavy-handed Christian sermonizing I’ve ever read. It’s the kind of ending that’s designed to bestow a lesson on readers, at the expense of the characters’ personalities and priorities. I still recommend this to anyone who’s enjoyed Gaskell before, but if you’re new to her work, pick up North and South or Wives and Daughters instead.

  • Marquise
    2019-06-26 01:13

    I can't believe I'm giving a Gaskell novel this low a rating... And yet, I can't but rate it so. The storytelling is deficient despite the plot being theoretically sound, and there’s too much mawkishly romantic melodrama from early on, to which you have to add dialogue that sounds as trite as this example between the protagonist, Mary Barton, and her suitor:"I tell you, Jem, it cannot be. Once for all, I will never marryyou.""And is this the end of all my hopes and fears? the end of my life, I may say, for it is the end of all worth living for!" His agitation rose and carried him into passion. "Mary, you'll hear, maybe, of me as a drunkard, and maybe as a thief, and maybe as a murderer. Remember! when all are speaking ill of me, you will have no right to blame me, for it's your cruelty that will have made me what I feel I shall become. You won't even say you'll try and like me; will you, Mary?" said he, suddenly changing his tone from threatening despair to fond, passionate entreaty, as he took her hand and held it forcibly between both of his, while he tried to catch a glimpse of her averted face.Why are Victorian writers so fond of overwrought and over-the-top theatrics and sentimental drama? Why do they favour it over telling the story competently instead?Because this one had a great idea for a plot: a murder carried out on a mill owner, in which the female lead's father and sweetheart are suspected by turns. There's ideological and class tensions between the moneyed mill-owning industrialists and the factory workers and Union leaders, with a side of family and community difficulties for extra flavour, that'd have provided with plenty of thrilling drama on its own, if Gaskell had handled the execution of the premise better. Instead, we got a run-of-the-mill (pun intended) weak plot centred round solving what's perhaps the most predictable of all murder mysteries I've read recently, and the characters are either excitable and babbling-prone stereotypes or plain flat. There's an irritatingly predictable resolution to the murder, with me being able to tell the identity of the murderer pages and pages and pages before the revelation point. Rather anti-climactic.Clearly, ‘tis been quite the disappointment in so many ways...

  • Holly
    2019-06-27 00:14

    I'm not sure why I feel the need to read 19th century women's British lit, but I always go back to it, whether it's re-reading Austen or trying out new titles and authors. At first it was reading anything by Austen or that was Austenesque in period, satire, and romance. Now I've come to love reading the formal British diction and grammar - long sentences, Hackney London accents, and all. It's also an interesting way to learn about and live the historical period. That said, I've read Gaskell before and I wasn't disappointed this time around. The murder mystery and melodramatic romance of Mary Barton were engaging, but I found the poverty of Manchester factory life and the fully rendered characters and their rich relationships, which Gaskell captures so well, most worthwhile. Almost as good as North and South.

  • F.R.
    2019-06-17 17:25

    'Mary Barton, or It's Grim Oop North'One doesn't like to fall back on cliches like the above, but the Manchester Tourist Board is never going to give a back cover blurb for this novel. Death, disease and destitution stalk the streets of the city which is seemingly a series of run-down slums, where a fall in demand for cotton can see whole families starve to nothing; where a flirtation with one of a higher class can lead to disgrace and possibly murder; where high passions are fermented even through the want and hunger. Yes, it’s melodramatic; yes these are the very streets Catherine Cookson stalked for decades (much to ITV Drama’s delight), but actually I enjoyed it more than I did George Gissing’s ‘Demos’. ‘Demos’ feels academic, a book that doesn’t want to get its fingers dirty. ‘Mary Barton’ is mired in dirt, it doesn’t stint from the filth of those dark, dingy, filthy and cobbled streets. But more importantly, it’s a book with a strong, beating human heart. There’s a whole raft of characters here that the narrative is determined that you understand, empathise with and even love. The book makes them real, gives them the air of life and asks the reader to forgive them their foibles (and even their greater sins), then be happy at any hope which comes their way.Okay, it ain’t subtle. The working folk are good natured but down trodden, the employers and masters are harsh and unfeeling. Any reader wanting a nuanced and rounded view of labour relations in the North West of England in the Victorian age should look elsewhere. It’s also fair to say that the book builds to a big courthouse crescendo, before tapering off quite substantially. But despite these flaws (and one of those isn’t really a flaw in what is a polemic), Gaskell captures this world with incredible skill and brio, creating her characters with such thoughtfulness and care that even when they behave surprisingly it seems to derive from a real place, to give us a passionate steam-powered – and soot covered – book, which tries to let sunlight through to even the dankest corners.

  • booklady
    2019-06-12 20:09

    Although I didn’t realize it, this was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel and by happy circumstance it was also my first to read by her. There were any number of favorable things which could be said about the novel, such as Gaskell’s portrayal of a manufacturing town class struggle during an economic crisis, family politics on both sides of that contention or the simple, clean plot.But what completely won me over were the clear ethical choices in the story. It wasn’t overtly didactic or preachy. It was illustrative in that a character would be up against some insurmountable foe/obstacle and though it meant going against his own best interest(s) he would choose based on what was the right thing to do or some higher moral purpose, rather than what was in his own interests. Not all characters and not all the time, of course, or it would be very tedious. There was conflict and villains. Moral relativists would hate this book! 3.5, but the extra ½ point for knowing and showing right from wrong. I will read more by Gaskell.

  • Jane
    2019-06-25 18:06

    Where I got the book: public domain freebie on Kindle or was it directly from Anyhow, a perfectly acceptable free copy which is one of the things I love about the internet.Mary Barton is the pretty daughter of a factory hand who's an ardent Chartist (prototypical trade unionist) in an 1800s Manchester hit by economic hardship. She is loved by childhood friend Jem Wilson but has her eye on handsome Harry Carson, the boss's son. After Harry is assassinated and Jem is accused of the murder Mary is desperate to save him (view spoiler)[(she had already realized she loved him all along) (hide spoiler)] but can she do so without revealing the real murderer? Because that would also destroy her.This was Mrs. Gaskell's first novel and it's definitely not written with anything like as much assurance or finesse as her last, Wives and Daughters, which I reviewed last year. The plot moves along somewhat more jerkily and without that edge of sly amusement that I so liked about W&D. But as Victorian melodramas go, it's a corker with lots of deaths and excesses of violent emotion. Oh, how terrible to think of his crime, his blood-guiltiness; he who had hitherto been so good, so noble, and now an assassin! And then she shrank from him in thought; and then, with bitter remorse, clung more closely to his image with passionate self-upbraiding. Was it not she who had led him to the pit into which he had fallen?This is, as much as anything else, a story of Mary's redemption from the light-heartedness of her youth to a Woman Fit To Be Loved By a Noble Man. It really struck me how hard women had it back then; Mary's sin is to have been a flirtatious teenager, a state of existence we now celebrate. Even though the Carsons' money was self-made, Mrs. Gaskell seems to think it entirely wrong that Mary should have ever aspired to a bit of social climbing through marriage; double standards much? (view spoiler)[The example of Esther drives the point home that girls who forget their place come to a Bad End, which must have delighted her middle-class readers but what a bummer for the poor working girl! (hide spoiler)] It's interesting that while much of the novel demonstrates enormous sympathy for the plight of the factory workers, Mrs. Gaskell is not prepared to go so far as to invite them into her social circle.With all that, it's a cracking good read with some memorable scenes. A true tear-jerker, full of pathos and with many references to the Gospels because there are certainly very strong Christian themes (redemption, forgiveness, charity and the like.) You have to understand the Victorian taste for saccharine scenes and elevated moral standards to appreciate this one, but if you roll your eyes at the over-the-top writing you should still enjoy the story and characters. Not nearly as show-offy as Dickens, Gaskell writes with earnestness and although I missed her later humor, I appreciated the attempt NOT to turn her working-class characters into Punch & Judy amusements for the (presumably superior) reader as Dickens does.

  • Amanda
    2019-06-05 00:04

    I did not love this nearly as much as North and South, but over the course of the novel I grew more and more fond of it. The characterization is not as superb as in N&S, but I did come to know most of the characters quite well. There are a few passages in the middle devoted to a mermaid, which certainly won me over! Overall, this felt like a first novel when compared to N&S, but that makes me more eager to pick up the later works of Gaskell!

  • Issicratea
    2019-06-23 22:08

    Mary Barton (1848) was Elizabeth Gaskell’s first published novel—and it shows. There’s a kind of tentativeness about it, and a certain clunkiness of construction; and there’s a great deal of Victorian piety and sentimentality to wade through. I feel sorry for anyone who comes to Gaskell first through this rather weak, early production, rather than through her magnificent later novels, like Sylvia's Lovers (1863) and North and South (1855).There are plot anticipations of North and South in Mary Barton (industrial tensions between workers and mill-owners), and also of George Eliot’s Adam Bede, of 1859 (love triangle pitting an upwardly mobile working class man set on marriage against a wealthier seducer.) The Eliot echoes are not fortuitous; Eliot read Mary Barton as she was working on Adam Bede. The echoes of these two later and greater novels only make you more aware of Mary Barton’s deficiencies, however. It is hugely weakened by comparison with North and South, for example, by only fully dramatizing the “worker” side of the class dispute, and leaving the “mill-owner” side under-developed. I don’t want to be too hard on this novel, though, whatever its flaws. It was clearly very brave in the climate of the day, and attracted quite a degree of controversy when it was published. Some of the scenes of poverty and suffering among millworkers in Manchester during times of low employment are very strong and affecting. I was especially struck by the spiral downwards, across the first third of the novel, from the relatively comfortable poverty of the Bartons’ house in the opening episode, with their small luxuries of japanned tea trays and ham and eggs for a special occasion; to the spinster Alice Wilson’s more straitened circumstances, her entertaining limited to a rare offering of bread and butter; to the sudden, shocking poverty of the unemployed Davenport, dying on a bed of straw in a filthy, unheated cellar, with his pregnant wife and children starving alongside him. The novel is also interesting politically, portraying as it does the context of the Chartist movement—although Gaskell is so wary of rocking the boat of her middle-class readership that she comes close to portraying the class disputes of the time as arising from personal misunderstandings, rather than anything deeper or more structural. I was interested to read in the introduction to my edition that Gaskell had originally intended to entitle the work John Barton, making Mary’s radical, Chartist father the clear protagonist of the novel. It was her publishers who persuaded her to change the title and refocus on Mary’s none-too-compelling sentimental life.One odd line of reflection that a note in my edition set me thinking about: Elizabeth Gaskell’s poverty of imagination concerning names. John and Mary Barton; James Wilson; Margaret Hale; John Thornton; Sylvia Robson—these are all quite remarkably “off the peg,” if we contrast them with George Eliot’s far richer onomastic imaginary: Adam Bede, Maggie Tulliver; Hetty Sorrel; Silas Marner; Felix Holt (not to mention Edward Casaubon and Will Ladislaw.) I had never really thought before about how much characters’ names contribute to a novel (perhaps I should read more Dickens: Septimus Crisparkle, anyone? Anne Chickenstalker?), but I suspect I’m not going to be able to avoid it from now on.

  • Quirkyreader
    2019-06-06 22:11

    This was my first go as an audio book after many years. I throughly enjoyed having the story read to me. And thank you to the National Library Service for providing audio books to those of us who have visual impairments.Now onto the review.The story takes place in Gaskell's home of Manchester in the north of England. It is a family story that is full of tragedy and misunderstandings. It also depicts the way of life of the working man during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th Century. This story greatly appealed to me because I had read some of Gaskell's other works, Charlotte Bronte's "Shirley" and other history books about the working life in Northern England in the 19th Century. The main message I took away from this story was, no matter what adversity you are going through, persevere and never give up.

  • RavenclawReadingRoom
    2019-05-30 18:12

    The first time I read this, I really struggled with it. I think I got caught up in the love triangle element of the story to the point where I couldn't see anything else. I was also comparing it to my two favourite Gaskell books, North & South and Wives & Daughters.But on reread, letting the story stand on its own? I really enjoyed this one. It's about the lengths that someone will go to for what they believe in. It's about a teenage girl who's so infatuated with a hot, rich guy that she doesn't realise she loves the guy right in front of her who's loved her for years. It's about everyday people just struggling to survive. It took me a while to get into it, and I definitely didn't like it as much as my two favourite Gaskell books of wondrousness. But it's a compelling story full of interesting characters. And it's definitely worth reading.

  • Trudy Brasure
    2019-06-07 22:02

    I really enjoyed reading this again. It's not as wonderful as North and South or Wives and Daughters, but I enjoyed it more than Ruth or Cranford. There are so many similar elements to North and South, and the details into the lives of the working class is expanded. I don't feel the deep empathy for Mary or Jem as I do with Margaret Hale and John Thornton. Mary's struggles are much more dramatic and difficult to relate to. And we don't get to know Jem as well as we get to know John Thornton.The secondary characters all come alive with their own individuality. This is one of the great pleasures of reading Gaskell. She creates very vivid characters.

  • Nancy
    2019-06-21 00:12

    Elizabeth Gaskell is a classic writer. Her characters have depth and her descriptions are detailed. She makes it hard to read modern works in which, most of the time, the writing is much thiner. I can put this no better than the description on the back of the book, which reads in part: "While it is certianly possible to consult Mary Barton as a social document depicting Manchester in the "hungry forties" with appalling precision, the novel cannot only be read as such. Partly because its love story and murder plot, involving Mary and her father John are so grippingly told, but more because Elizabeth Gaskell's real strength lies in her fidelity to feelings: a genius for making her characters so individually human in their responses to poverty and injustice that we are touched by an appeal that goes beyond government statistics and beyond time.." I read this book many years ago, but got more out of it this time. That's the trouble with reading really good literature. You want to keep up with new things, but the older works often demand a second look.

  • Gary
    2019-06-02 20:04

    Mary Barton was an important landmark in 19th century English literature in that , more possibly than even any Charles Dickens novel, it raises awareness of the plight of the poverty stricken English working classes.Unlike most of Dickens work , Elizabeth Gaskell places working class people at the center of her novel novel rather than the periphery. The central point of the novel - as is Engels The Condition of the Working Class in England (Oxford World's Classics) is how men and women starved and children died and children died, while their employers lived off the fat of the land.The exploitation and suffering of the British poor at this time was every bit as cruel and exploitative as that of the slaves in the colonies.The novel captures the clashes of the time between the wealthy employers and the labourers is dramatized by personal struggles.Central to the story is the trade unionist and his daughter Mary Barton caught between two lovers of opposing classes, the honest young worker Jem and the son of an industrialist Henry Carson.The 'fallen woman' Esther is to me perhaps the most tragic figure of the novel. determined to save Mary from what she sees as similar fate (Esther was jilted too by a soldier who pretended he loved her and forced to sell her body to survive) , though she sees her own life as all but destroyed. Hence the despised street prostitute shows great inner nobility of character.Mary Barton is important reading to gain an insight into working class life in the 19th century. And that of the exploitation by employers. It helps us understand the why the native British working classes have had a history of suffering and exploitation every bit as cruel as their counterparts who originated in the Third world.

  • Helle
    2019-06-15 22:58

    There is a decent enough story at the heart of this novel, but as much as I hate being negative about Elizabeth Gaskell, whose Wives and Daughters I loved, this book is much too didactic for my tastes, probably for most modern tastes, I suspect. There were times in the beginning where I felt it was a communist manifesto, only half concealed in the novel form, with an extremely intrusive narrator. It is the story of a young woman, Mary Barton, and the decisive years of her life in Manchester during which we hear of much grief, many deaths, the woes of factory workers, her budding love life and inherent confusion etc. etc. and, as in the other works I’ve read by Gaskell, human relations, for better or for worse. And there’s a murder as well.The novel paints an interesting and tragic portrait of the lives of workers in the Victorian age, and it was heartbreaking at times. Elizabeth Gaskell’s storytelling skills are evident here, but there were many times when I felt the story to be overwritten, sentimental melodrama – hence the low rating (which I hate having to give). It was somewhat mitigated (but at times enhanced) by the wonderful narration of Juliet Stevenson, whose Mancunian (or Manchester dialect) sounded most convincing to my ears (mitigated because she made the story come alive; enhanced because there were times when the dialog went on and on). Still, Gaskell, too, had to start somewhere, and her debut novel reveals an unmistakable talent, which she succeeded in honing to near perfection in later novels. 2,5 stars

  • Marialyce
    2019-06-02 00:23

    Actually, I do so wish there were half star ratings as I feel this one is definitely a 3.5 novel. Being that this was Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel, and being that a few people told me they couldn't get through it, imagine my surprise when I found I truly liked this book? It was a fine example of the saga of the the Victorian world where feelings are so hidden, and cues so missed that oftentimes, feelings are overlooked and poor judgements are made.Mary Barton, a young pretty woman, learns the errors of trifling with feelings in a very emotional way. She is a good, well brought up girl, but does seem to want to have a bit of excitement in her life. Suffice to say that she does find that but in ways she would not have imagined. Of course this novel deals with love that has gone in the wrong direction and feelings that seem to not be reciprocated. So, of course there is a way out of dilemmas that result in some losses but eventually our heroine finds happiness and true love. Along the way though, things do get rocky and Mary and her father deal with the turmoil of the times as well as the people who are representative of the owner class.Ms Gaskell can always be counted on to provide strong descriptions of her characters as well as their environment. In this novel, one could see the promise that Ms Gaskell had as an author. There were some weaknesses as well as she tended to be a bit drawn out and somewhat repetitive. Her ending was abrupt but overall this was for me a fine, decent read from an author I have come to admire.

  • Ana T.
    2019-06-15 00:13

    I had loved North & South, liked Cranford and I must confess that I was totally unprepared for my reaction to this Mary Barton. I loved it!!!I am a bit undecided on what to mention first, Mary Barton focus on Mary who is apparently the main character but more than that is focusses on the industrial side of the city of Manchester in the 1840s, on the relationships between Masters and workers, but especially on the workers living conditions. The misery that forced them to desperate acts from seeing their families starve.I think Gaskell is brilliant analysing human nature at its best and at its worse, I loved the voice of the narrator who narrated the story yes, but also explained what needed to be explained and reflected about what leads men to do what they do.But the second half of Mary Barton is also a murder mystery. A man is murdered and another is accused and we know, like Mary does, that the accused is innocent. Fortunately something can be done to prove his innocence and we follow her as she tries to do exactly that.Gaskell gives a voice to the desperate, the famished, the miserable, even to the prostitutes of the time. This is not a happy book, although is does have a happy ending, but I closed it with a happy sigh because I love these big social analyses and Gaskell tells the story with a fast paced compelling way that kept me hooked till the last page.Grade: 4.5/5

  • Sara
    2019-06-06 17:01

    It is difficult to express why this Victorian novel (that no doubt contains all the cliche faults one would attribute to lesser Victorian efforts) should be so effective and enduring. Gaskell treats her characters with understanding and respect and, while they could easily sink into caricature, they do not.The story has a long, overwrought narrative; Mary is unlikable and bounces between a person of extraordinary strength and one who faints and swoons in weakness; Jem is a bit too perfect; and Gaskell interrupts the tale of obvious moral consequence to preach to us its moral lessons. What makes it have the ring of truth is the knowing that the squalor, starvation and loss of life are a daily part of the this world and are not being exaggerated in the least.I appreciated that Gaskell resisted the urge to make the wealthy factory owners less human than they were. Their lack of understanding or care for the lower classes was portrayed as something they failed to want to see...and how true is that even today. Don't people generally take just that attitude toward the homeless? If I don't look at them I will not have to contemplate their circumstances or consider that there but for the grace of God go I.I cannot say I enjoyed this book, but I did think it was worth reading. Many of its lessons, while rooted in a harder time and in problems which have been addressed and greatly solved by this age, are ones every man can learn to his benefit even today.

  • Nancy Dardarian
    2019-06-26 16:56

    I loved this book, when I read it I was on a Victorian kick and had a lot of fun. It is sometimes a bit much but overall worth it. I loved this bit:Of all the trite, worn-out, hollow mockeries of comfort that were ever uttered by people who will not take the trouble of sympathizing with others, the one I dislike the most is the exhortation not to grieve over and event, "for it cannot be helped." Do you think if I could help it, I would sit still with folded hands, content to mourn? Do you not believe that as long as hope remained I would be up and doing? I mourn because what has occurred cannot be helped. The reason you give me for not grieving, is the very and sole reason of my grief."