Thursday, January 20, 2011

Literary Hop - Unloved Literary Works

Literary Blog Hop
Discuss a work of literary merit that you hated when you were made to read it in school or university.  Why did you dislike it?
I've really loved the Literary Hop questions lately, and this week is no exception! 

I took a class called 19th Century British Novels my sophomore year of college. I was really excited for this class, since I'd never really read Jane Austen, any of the Bronte's or anything by Dickens that I liked (I was still hopeful hear. I promise this isn't another Dickens rant). While I ended up enjoying almost everything I read for the class, I came out with a deep hatred for Elizabeth Gaskell's North & South.

I know plenty of people who love Gaskell and this book, but reading it back to back with Pride & Prejudice really ruined it for me. I could see nothing but the similarities between the two, and while I loved Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, I hated Margaret Hale with a passion.  I've written here a few times about how I need to have a character I like,or at least identify with to have a really enjoyable reading experience, and that's what I was lacking here.  

Of course, I also had major problems with the story. Ok, my real problem was that I thought it was dull and that Gaskell's sole purpose was to irritate me. I know I argued in class about Elizabeth's odd, out of period attitude and anything else that might have irritated me. 

Even now I know my reasons for disliking North and South really aren't fair, and aren't very objective, but that's what I really like about literature. Something can be well written and well received, and still people can dislike it and have an argument against it. 
Thinking back I did really like Mr. Thornton.


17 comments:

mel u said...

I recently had a difficult time finishing her Sylvia's Lover do to all of the rural dialogue

Risa said...

I've only ever heard good reports about North and South. This is the first time I'm reading of someone who didn't like it at all! As I haven't read it yet myself, I can't quite comment on the comparison, or rather distinction you've made between it and P&P...

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

I read a review of North and South at Amanda's blog, Dead White Guys, and she pointed out the same things you did. I'm really hesitant to read it, mainly because Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books. :)

LifetimeReader said...

I'm so sorry to hear this! The BBC adaptations of Gaskell are all so wonderful. But the idea that Gaskell is not quite as fab as Austen and the Brontes makes some sense, I guess, given that her reputation over the years has been so much more uneven. I'm hoping to read her at some point, but recognizing these weaknesses in advance might make me less disappointed.

Ben said...

Oh well, I kinda like Gaskell. Didn't read "North & South" though. Some books are just aiming at a very narrow minority. Those who are written with that in mind and who end up reaching out to a huge community makes the best fiction. Vonnegut is an example. Gaskell...well...I'll be the first to admit she's not easy.

Melody said...

I've enjoyed Gaskell, but it really was a horrible idea to put P&P and N&S back to back! N&S would definitely pale in comparison, it just doesn't have the humor or reputation to stand up after that. Especially with the similarly timed proposal scene. Sheesh. :)

JoAnn said...

Have never read Gaskell, but plan to this year. I'll be starting with Cranford.

parrish lantern said...

Not a fan of Gaskell, but would have loved your Dickens rant.

Red said...

I'm with you, I have a lot of trouble enjoying a book if I can't identify with a character. If I can't understand the character I just get annoyed by them.

Jenny O. said...

I've heard so many good things about Gaskell's North and South. I am planning on reading it this year, but at least now I know what I'm getting into. It really bites having something not meet your expectations!

Mari said...

I haven't read Gaskell, sounds like I should pass aftr reading your post and the comments.

I'm not an Orwell fan... we had to read much of his work in high school (followed by the movie version for each book). My post is on Animal Farm.

Adam said...

Hmmm... I haven't read this one yet, but it's one of those books that I feel like I "should" read, particularly being American. I'm sure I'll get to it one day, but I was not really thrilled about the read in the first place. Fortunately, I don't mind a book with no redeeming characters (as long as they're written well) - for me, it's all about plot and other story elements. I would prefer a beautifully written, accurate book with an interesting story or eclectic style to a book that's written standard with a fair motivation but totally lovable characters. I guess we're all different in that regard, though.

Katherine (gaskellblog.com) said...

I'm a lover of both Austen and Gaskell's work. So I'm very interested in what drew you away from North & South. What was it about Margaret that irritated you? What about the story did you find dull?

I understand the similar themes in the romance between Margaret & Thorton vs. Elizabeth & Darcy -- nameley 'pride' and 'prejudice'. But there are other layers that N&S explores which P&P does not.

Em said...

I never read Gaskell, never really been tempted to...

bibliophiliac said...

I do love Gaskell, but maybe because I read her in a grad school course with a wonderful professor.

gautami tripathy said...

I am not an Austen Fan. I can't get into her books.

Here is my Literary Blog Hop: Disliked Book post!

Elizabeth said...

My read was STONEHENGE DECODED...uggh. Did anyone else have to suffer through it?

Stop by my blog if you like to see my full answer...I also have a giveaway that isn't very literary, but check it out.

http://silversolara.blogspot.com