If you are interested in social injustice and the history of worker's rights then this is a nice fit. In the beginning of the story, we meet Mary Barton, who although pretty doesn't appear to have a lot of depth; she is easily distracted by attention to her beauty which plays out in not such a good way. Her father is a union leader and struggles to keep his family fed in a contentious environment for workers and mill owners.
The novel started at a fairly good clip but in the middle it does bog down a bit. Happily there is a rally at the end and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. Will true love be saved?
I felt like Mary matured throughout the novel, leaving her shallow self behind, and coming out stronger as a person. Her friend Margaret (and grandfather Job) were my favorites in the story. They seemed to provide the sense and grounding that Mary lacked.
This is my first book by Gaskell and I enjoyed her style of writing. Gaskell is able to give great insight into the working class and the individuals who must surely have been part of the landscape during that time. There are many tragedies in each family's story and it really is amazing how resilient humans can be in terrible conditions. There is also the language of the day woven throughout; my edition gave definitions which was really helpful. One of my favorites is the word "disremember" - it seems a natural way of speaking although no one would ever use it today.
On to reading more of her work!