"Beginning in 1830, writers in England popularized the social novel, a type of fiction that raises consciousness about prevailing social problems by dramatizing their effect on a novel's characters. Charlotte Bronte's 1849 second novel Shirley (Penguin Classics, 2006), published after Jane Eyre, focuses on the industrialization and accompanying difficulties of the Yorkshire textile industry. It also features fascinating characters and a complex love story. Elizabeth Gaskell was a lesser-known Victorian novelist (as well as biographer of Charlotte Bronte) whose reputation soared after critics rediscovered her in the 1970s. Though Gaskell is probably best known for her village portrait Cranford, many people regard North and South (Oxford University Press, 2008), published five years after Shirley in 1854, as her best novel. Like Shirley, North and South focuses on problems rampant in England's industrial North, simultaneously developing well-rounded characters and a compelling love story. Join us for discussion of these superbly paired novels.