North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
After living with her cousin in London, Margaret returns home only to find that her father, a country vicar, is giving up his living due to doubts. The best he can do to continue to make a living is to find a job as a tutor in industrial northern England. The move is jarring for the entire family, but Margaret tries to make the best of it and to take care of her mother who is in frail health. Industrialist John Thornton, Rev. Hale’s student, is attracted to Margaret, but it’s difficult for a lady from the rural south to accept the addresses of a tradesman from the north.
First published in 1855, this book is written in the style of the time, so lots of social prejudices, lots of overwrought women, etc. Margaret is basically too perfect to be believed, though she does commit one “sin” in order to give the novel a plot. What I liked about this book: the comparison between the social milieu in the two very different regions; the characters from up north (Thornton, his mother, the Higgins family); Thornton’s hopeless passion. What I didn’t like: most of the female characters; the ending that made me go “that’s it?”; the prejudice all over the place towards everyone. 3.5/5*
P.S. I've heard the miniseries is quite good. I haven't seen it.