The North and South of my post title does not refer to the American Union-Confederate divide; but instead the division between the north and south of England. (Though they did have their own Civil War). This North and South is a nineteenth century novel by Elizabeth Gaskell. I read it last summer, in large part based on the recommendation of a friend, and I liked it. Once I learned that there was a 2004 miniseries version, I really wanted to watch it. I only just did, but am pleased to report that it’s fantastic! I was really impressed with the production values, and even the score is amazing. While North and South is a love story, I think it includes many other elements that make it much more engaging. The Hale family moves to fictional Milton, in the industrial north of England when clergyman patriarch Richard Hale has a crisis of conscience and abandons his parish post. In Milton, the cotton mill is king. One of my favorite things about North and South, is that you really get a full and complicated picture of industry and trade. The “masters” (as the mill owners are called), the workers (the “hands” in the novel), and the gentry class as embodied by the Hales, are often in conflict, but it’s hard not to see both the righteousness and the flaws in all of their divergent positions. It’s great to see a really detailed depiction of unionization and a worker’s strike. Watching it, I was thinking how I’d love to show it in a class on business ethics. When Margaret Hale narrates on the cotton mills, that “I believe I have seen hell, and it’s white, it’s snow-white,” I just got shivers down my spine. One of my reading pet peeves is dialect, which I find to be distracting. While I know that some authors are praised for their accurate and exemplary use of dialect, I nearly always find something condescending about it. (Even though I know that not everyone speaks alike). This is well rectified in the movie, as the actors covey the great differences in their speech, in a way that’s both subtle and immediately apparent. This particularly led me to find the Nicholas Higgins character far more admirable (and likable) in the movie than in the novel. I really cannot say enough good things about this miniseries-I thought the acting was very strong, and that Sandy Welch did a superb job of adapting the story. At four hours long, I still felt like I wanted to watch it again immediately!