It is about as good as a book can be without being written by someone who is a genius. Gaskell takes a lot of what is best from her great contemporaries in Victorian English literature and writes a book that really is without flaws. However, I've grown accustomed to books that are written by people who have the divine spark in them and while many of those books have massive and spectacular flaws, there is always a moment of excitement when a great writer peers at the innermost essence of things.
This is the very first 19th century novel I would read if I had exhausted all the greats. It is something between Dickens and early chick lit.