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December 30 , 2009

Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life


A complex and troubled love story set amid the labor disputes of the Manchester, England, cotton mills in the mid-19th century, with many parallels to today:

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Cousin Phillis (Mobi Classics)

Cousin Phillis" (1864) is a novella by Elizabeth Gaskell originally published in four parts, though a fifth and sixth part were planned. The story is about Paul Manning, a youth of nineteen who moves to the country and befriends his mother's family and his (second) cousin Phillis Holman, who is confused by her own placement at the edge of…

As the earnings of the working classes drop and the price of their food rises ... "though it may take much suffering to kill the able-bodied and effective members of society, it does NOT take much to reduce them to worn, listless, diseased creatures, who thenceforward crawl through life with moody hearts and pain-stricken bodies."

It's a little slow moving in parts, but Gaskell's vivid descriptions and strong characterizations of the suffering, poverty-stricken workers, desperate women and arrogant wealthy "masters" are riveting. Throughout, the characters are multilayered and very human and the plot compelling.

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