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The orphaned heroine Ruth, apprenticed to a dressmaker, is seduced by wealthy Henry Bellingham who is captivated by her simplicity and beauty. Their affair causes her to lose her home and job to which he offers her shelter, only to cruelly abandon her soon after. She is offered a chance of a new life though shamed in the eyes of society by her illegitimate son. When Henry reappears offering marriage she must choose between social acceptance and her own pride. Ruth ultimately finds a path that affirms we are not bound to repeat our mistakes.
A social audiobook of love, family and hypocrisy, it examines the Victorian views about sin and the social stigma of illegitimacy. Gaskell is compassionate in her portrayal of Ruth who would normally be outcast from respectable society.
Ruth was the first mainstream novel to cast a 'fallen woman' in the role of heroine and inevitably caused controversy when published. It predates Hardy's own such heroine in Tess of the d'Urbervilles by nearly 40 years.
Gaskell was an accomplished writer and had much of her work published in Charles Dickens' magazine Household Words. She was also friends with Charlotte Brontë and after her death, her father, Patrick Brontë, chose Gaskell to write The Life of Charlotte Brontë.
As well as a substantial portfolio of voiceover work, Eve Matheson's career spans audiobooks, theatre, television, film and radio. She has narrated several audiobooks, including Tracy Chevalier's Falling Angels and Erica James' Act of Faith, and documentaries including Fermat's Last Theorem (1996) which won several awards including a BAFTA. On screen, she is best known for her roles as Becky Sharp in the 1987 BBC adaptation of the novel Vanity Fair and as Zoe Angell in May to December (1989-1990). She has frequently appeared at the Royal National Theatre and in the West End, playing roles such as Cordelia in King Lear, Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream and as Lady Anne in Richard III. From 2005-2006, she appeared as Mrs. Milcote in the original Royal National Theatre production of Helen Edmundson's Coram Boy. Her recent television appearances have included roles in Silent Witness (2015) and Call the Midwife (2014).