Thursday, February 21, 2013

Inspired by Literature: Elizabeth Gaskell

It's not often that I put off writing a post, particularly where literature is concerned, but in the case of this installment of my Inspired By Literature series the delay was more out of intimidation than procrastination. You see, the subject of this month's post is Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell who just so happens to be the author of my favorite book of all time, the incomparable North and South. It's difficult to even articulate how much I adore this novel. With a story line that amounts to a somewhat more complex version of Pride and Prejudice featuring characters grappling with the sociocultural changes wrought by the industrial revolution, workers rights issues, a 19th century male protagonist and romantic interest that works (shock, horror) and one hell of a love story I could read the book time and time again and still find things to prattle on about. And okay, maybe part of my love for North and South comes from the perfect film adaptation featuring my celebrity crush, Richard Armitage, in the role of John Thornton. (See what I mean? Hubba. Hubba.

Gaskell’s characters in two of her best known works North and South and Wives and Daughters are unique, and are often more complex than their counterparts in 19th century novels by other authors (in my humble opinion). Written to perfection with such vivid language one almost feels present at many of each novel's pivotal moments, I find Gaskell's work enthralling and hard to put down.

(Clockwise from top right): Le Métier de Beauté Corinthian, NARS Lola Lola, MAC Bateau, Club, Hocus Pocus and Greensmoke

When I think about North and South it's immediately apparent that social binaries make up the crux of the novel. North and south, industrial city and bucolic country, worker and "master," male and female are all points that the novel's main characters have to overcome to gain a better understanding of each other. This division is obviously something I wanted to express when I pulled colors for this Inspired By Literature post. Above gritty industrial shades of grey and brown represent the northern masculine industry (John Thornton) within the novel, while soft shades of rose and peach represent the refined feminine south (Margaret Hale).

(Clockwise from top right): MAC Gentle Mineralize Blush, MAC Warm Soul Mineralize Blush, MAC Patisserie Lipstick, Chanel Boy Rouge Coco Shine, MAC Capricious Lipstick

As you can imagine, the polish shades I selected below are meant to evoke the same theme represented above. Chanel's crisp, linear black bottles with various smoky shades contrast the elegantly packaged and aptly named Dior Lady. 

(Top to bottom): Dior Lady, Chanel Frenzy, Graphite and Particulière

Though I've spent considerably less time analyzing Wives and Daughters, I know it to be an equally complex novel. Unfortunately Gaskell was not able to realize the final scene as she died before the novel was completed, robbing devoted readers of the same eagerly anticipated climax so well put to paper in  North and South. Though it's by no means my favorite, I adore this novel as it in some ways seems to be a study and celebration of women for their strengths and weaknesses: for that reason the products I have selected are somewhat more delicate than those I chose above.

(Counter clockwise from left): MAC Hey, Honey Lust, Mythology and Cranberry, Bourjois Rose Coup de Foudre Blush

Gaskell's works have the magical ability to transport readers to another place and time with a mix of social issues and misunderstandings that are at once modern and of another era. I have never so associated with characters in my life, and find myself treated to the pleasure of constantly discovering new things each time I read one of her incredibly written novels. Though North and South and Wives and Daughters are my two favorites, Cranford is equally as well written and I soon intend to delve into Mary Barton and Ruth.

Do you have a favorite work by Elizabeth Gaskell? Which product would you most associate with her work?