I can't tell if I really love Gaskell or not... She was so honest.
Completely different from Austen who relied on comedy, which is great, don't get me wrong! But Austen was never really heartbreaking. Her work is kinda ''fluffy''. (Don't throw things at me Jane-ites!!)
Gaskell, while still giving us a satisfactory ending, wasn't afraid of the brutal reality of death.
Let me explain as well as I can...
Except for Emma, all of her books had a not-so-nice guy that just made you cringe.
Said bad guy always got what he deserved, aka, a life less fulfilling and fun then the hero/heroine, but he never died.
Bad things happened to Austen's secondary characters, but nobody dies. Ever.
Except the rich aunt, but that's not important....
And those bad things aren't so bad as to affect the rest of anyone's life, even though all the characters talk about 'diminished prospects' and such nonsense.
Disclaimer: I've only read two and a half of her books, so what I say only applies to North and South and Wives and Daughters, of which I have read the whole.
These two books do not have a defined bad guy. There are people you aren't supposed to love, but she always showed you that that person had reasons for being the way they were. Not that being a cruel person is okay, *Cough*Mr. Preston*Cough*, but Gaskell showed us why her characters behaved the way they did.
Imagine if we had read of Mrs/ Thornton in Pride & Prejudice. It shouldn't take much... In P & P, she goes by Lady Catherine. Think about it. They are basically the same character, they were just dealt with in different ways. Austen wrote her to be funny. A caricature of the overprotective and society driven guardian all in one. Gaskell went deeper. She tried to show us why Mrs. Thornton was so overprotective, and why she used social class as an excuse to dislike Margret.
When I pick up anything by Jane Austen, I wear a smile on my face for days while I'm reading it.
When I pick up North & South, or Wives & Daughters I smile a little, sigh a lot, and cry inside, but when I turn the last page and close the book I feel satisfied. I walk away knowing the characters better.
It's like going to the movies with a group of friends and just goofing off for a night. Then the next day you go to coffee with your bestie and just sit and talk for hours. They are both so much fun, and you can't really say one is better then the other, because they both do you good.
What do you think?