North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
North and South is a mid-19th century about the clash between rural southern England and industrial northern England, but "clash" is really too strong a word, probably left over from when I was under the mistaken impression that it was a book about the American Civil War. (Because there was that mini-series called North and South, though I've never seen it, and I don't know why it has stuck in my head for many years.)
Anyway, I feel silly that I am just now beginning to discover Elizabeth Gaskell, who wrote novels and short stories in the mid-1800s. I'd never heard of her until I took a class on the Brontes at BYU, in which I learned that she wrote a biography of Charlotte Bronte. Much later, I became aware of some of her novels, but I didn't read anything by her until my friend Adrienne gave me Wives and Daughters for my birthday (thanks, Adrienne!). I think I started reading that just because she'd given it to me and I felt a certain amount of pressure to read it (not directly from her, I hasten to add; I just made it up myself). I loved it.
Maybe if I'd been an English major, I would have read her in college? I don't know. I was a Comparative Literature major. I'd like to know if she's included in a typical English literature education. Anybody know?
So I finally picked up North and South at a time when I was fairly desperate to find something I'd enjoy reading. And I loved it, too! There's a delightful love story that drags on and on just as it should in a Victorian novel; there are funny characters, though maybe not quite as funny as Jane Austen's; and in this novel, there's a lot of interaction between the leisure class, the manufacturing class (I don't know exactly what to call that class, but I mean the factory owners), and the working class.
I raved about it to my sister Leah, who's watched the BBC production and now also read the book. She loves it, too.