North and South (2004)   Leave a comment

This beautifully adapted drama was first aired in Britain in 2004. Starring Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale and Richard Armitage as John Thornton, the four-part series based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1855 novel was an instant hit with audiences, surprising the BBC who were convinced it wouldn’t do well in the ratings.

However, we costume drama fangirls know better. Put a good-looking actor like Richard Armitage in a sexy waistcoat and shirt, and we will watch anything, regardless of what it is. Fortunately, though, the show had more than just totty watch going for it.

Set during the height of the Industrial Revolution, North and South tells the story of proud and genteel Margaret Hale, a girl from the south, who is forced to move with her family to the grimy mill town of Darkshire (a ficticious Manchester) when her father suddenly decides to leave the clergy.

Darkshire is Margaret’s worst nightmare come true. The streets are filthy and full of smoke, thanks to the surrounding mills that run night and day, the weather is inhospitable, and worse of all, the people are coarse and ill-mannered. Particularly one John Thornton, whom Margaret takes an instant dislike to, even though he is one of the wealthiest men in town.

Thornton’s wealth is self-made, though, and the harsh experiences of his younger years have left him with a chip on his shoulder. Despite his gruff manners and no-nonsense talk, he proves himself to be honest, hard-working and intelligent.

But Margaret refuses to see his good side and rejects him when he proposes to her, believing him to be haughty and snobbish-as some in the town think she is.

Through a series of crises, in which Thornton-without any fanfare- stands by Margaret and helps her when he can, she comes to realise that perhaps he is a decent sort after all, and is just the kind of man she would like to spend the rest of her life with. Aww.

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