45. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
This is the third of Gaskell's novels that I've read, and my favorite. Interestingly, it's earlier work than the other two. It seems to me that she was more honest and raw here in her opinions about class divisions. North and South and Cranford also both address divisions between mill workers and mill owners, but North and South is more nuanced, while Cranford is almost a farce. Mary Barton is more radical. Mary and her family (and their friends and neighbors) suffer extreme loss, and the consequences that follow are appropriately drastic. Highly recommended, and unfortunately, very relevant in the present day.
46. A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire
Finally, after holding onto the final two books for a few years, I finished the Wicked Years series. A Lion Among Men jumpstarts the story again after the possible ending in Son of a Witch. We backtrack to events that took place during Elphaba's life, and the book focuses on two peripheral characters, the titular lion, named Brrr (also the Cowardly Lion), and Mother Yackle, a soothsayer-turned-nun who hung mysteriously around the edges of the first two books. To be honest, it took me a while to care about these two characters as much as I cared about Elphaba and Liir, but by the end, I was sucked into their importance to Oz and to Elphaba's family. I was excited when Brrr figures again in the final book, Out of Oz, which I finished in September, so that will be in a later post!