“There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.”
Excerpt from Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
Unmapped Country is a continuation of Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell’s much beloved novel North & South set in Milton (Manchester), the centre of the cotton boom of the mid Victorian era. Events continue to conspire to make motives misunderstood; friendships are formed; preconceived concepts tumble and those tantalising moments of near reconciliation are all there, amidst the original characters and some new faces. However, I have cheated because I have ditched the original ending – but read on and I think you will agree that I was justified . . .
I read North & South during my school years but it was more recently that it ambushed me. The excellent BBC adaptation over four episodes put the tin lid on it. We will gloss over Richard Armitage's brilliant portrayal of Thornton (otherwise we could be here for a very long time and it could get messy), and concentrate on Sandy Welch's fantastic script, Brian Percival's direction and Jill Tevellick's casting. All excelled. Irrespective of whether you have read the book – do watch it. As usual, it's hat's off to the Beeb and the DVD is dirt cheap on Amazon now.
I did have one beef – with both book and TV version – the ending. Both were rubbish. Now, I am not anticipating a bolt of lightening from Mrs G's place of residence, as she didn't like her ending either. As for the Beeb's – well – as if! I exonerate all involved as it was obviously a sop to overseas sales. The fact that it was out of context, unnecessarily sentimental and required the viewer to take a massive leap of faith in coincidence, we will excuse as we know it was no doubt appreciated by our Yankee cousins.
Initially the story was serialised in Charles Dickens’ weekly magazine, Household Words. Blissfully unaware that her contract was drawing to a close, Mrs G was rather taken aback by the reminder that there were only two episodes in which to wrap it up and she was far from satisfied with her rushed conclusion.
Her publishers subsequently produced the manuscript in book form and for this she attempted a rewrite but, reading between the lines, I think she was heartily sick of the story by then and in fact referred to it as 'that wretched book'. The result is a complete anti-climax. Do read Jenny Uglow's fab biography for more detail. www.jennyuglow.com
Presumptuous? - undoubtedly, but I wanted a different ending and, what's more – I wanted MORE. So I worked backwards through the last few chapters and found the place where I considered the story was still strong and from whence it could progress. So, if you are still in love with John & Margaret, or you are intrigued by their enduring appeal - read on!
To read the First Chapter . . . click here