Set in Manchester, England, at the height of the Industrial Revolution, this powerful novel recounts a working-class girl's attempts to escape the sickness, hunger, and poverty of her world. Mary Barton's pretty face and winning manners have drawn the romantic attentions of a factory owner's son, but accepting her wealthy suitor means rejecting her childhood sweetheart. The dilemma intensifies in the aftermath of a ruthless murder, when Mary is drawn into the violence of the class conflict and forced to reconsider her choices as she struggles to protect the people she loves. Author Elizabeth Gaskell was widely regarded as the social conscience of Great Britain during the nation's transition from a rural, agricultural society to an industrial powerhouse. Her moving portrait of the dignity of working-class life and her plea for social harmony influenced Dickens, Carlyle, and other writers and ultimately helped pave the way for labor and reform movements.