Born OTD in 1810, English novelist, biographer, and short story writer, Elizabeth Gaskell. Set in Manchester in the 1840s – a period of industrial unrest and extreme deprivation – Mary Barton depicts the effects of economic and physical hardship upon the city’s working-class community.

Mary Barton

Paralleling the novel’s treatment of the relationship between masters and men, the suffering of the poor, and the workmen’s angry response, is the story of Mary herself: a factory-worker’s daughter who attracts the attentions of the mill-owner’s son, she becomes caught up in the violence of class conflict when a brutal murder forces her to confront her true feelings and allegiances. Mary Barton was praised by contemporary critics for its vivid realism, its convincing characters and its deep sympathy with the poor, and it still has the power to engage and move readers today.

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