I re-read North and South for Literature by Women at BNBC and it is a really nice Victorian novel, one that was serialized in Dickens's Household Words before publication and one that I think shows the uncertainty of a woman's place as well as the plight of the lower class.
It'a really nice book to read. Gaskell has a nice writing style and nearly all the characters are likeable (even prickly Mrs. Thornton). Everything ends quite well - the marriage plot works out and Maragaret isn't destitute.
But I can't help thinking that the "social novel" Gaskell started writing - the one where the plight of the mill workers in the industrial north is shown and mitigated - falls by the wayside as Margaret and John develop a relationship. The central portion of the book is used up showing how the poor working conditions, poor pay, and poor nutrition was working against the mill workers (Bessy's death from the "fluff" is quite moving) but it starts to fade into the background.