I really enjoyed this book, tragic romance, Napoleonic wars and all set in Whitby! (Though called Monkshaven it was so obviously Whitby every time they walked up the stairs to the church it made me irrationally happy)
The books started strongly with the description of the town and the fear of the press gangs. It got a little slow in the first half, but picked up again for the 2nd half. I realised towards the end that this is sort of the opposite story to the tale of adventure you'd expect. Normally the hero would be Kinraid and would follow his adventures as a whalers, capture by the press gang and adventures in the navy fighting Napoleon, with only a fond recollection for his love back at home. But instead Mrs. Gaskell told the story from the point of view of those left at home. Definitely not as "action packed" but very emotional.
I liked all the characterisation in this, though I did not like all the characters. I thought Philip was almost totally unlikeable, which is why I think I found parts a little slow as they were from his point of view. I just couldn't feel any sympathy for him. I think one of the things that Mrs. Gaskell does best is make even her meanest characters sympathetic in some way, so I can assume that this must have been intentional. He was dull, self-serving and unimaginative.
Sylvia I liked, despite her aversion to book learning. I wished more time had been spent on her point of view. I felt sorry for her and liked her willfulness.
The minor characters were also great, Hester and Molly (who could have been straight out of Cranford).
The dialect dialogue did take a bit of getting used to. But the writing style, particularly the little asides about how things used to be 60-70 years ago and how people were then, were brilliant.
Unfortunately now I have read all of Mrs. Gaskell's novels and only have some short stories left to read. But I will definitely be going back at some point and reading this one again....Continua