....by Elizabeth Gaskell.
While Wynne is caught between houses and computers in her migration to Washington, Sharon and I are proposing a late choice for June: Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. Now that the world has run out of Jane Austen novels to dramatize and the Brontë sisters' stories have been done to death (well, the decent ones, anyway), we're on the prowl for more exceptional female authors.
The answer: Elizabeth Gaskell. A friend of Dickens, Carlyle, Worthsworth, and Charlotte Brontë, Gaskell was known for writing in an array of genres, including ghost stories, fairy tales, romance, and social commentary (especially women's roles and class struggles of the new Industrial Age).
A special bonus: there's a recent BBC movie version of North and South that you can watch after reading the book. I haven't seen it, but Sharon says it's wonderful.
Here's the synopsis from Amazon:
North and South is a novel about rebellion. Moving from the industrial riots of discontented millworkers through to the unsought passions of a middle-class woman, and from religious crises of conscience to the ethics of naval mutiny, it poses fundamental questions about the nature of social authority and obedience. Through the story of Margaret Hale, the middle-class southerner who moves to the northern industrial town of Milton, Gaskell skilfully explores issues of class and gender in the conflict between Margaret's ready sympathy with the workers and her growing attraction to the charismatic mill ownder, John Thornton.