Cranford (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

Cranford (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

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Overview

Cranford is a humorous account of a nineteenth-century English village dominated by a group of genteel but modestly circumstanced women. By eschewing the conventional marriage plot with its nubile heroines and focusing instead on a group of middle-aged and elderly spinsters, Elizabeth Gaskell did something highly unusual within the novel genre. Through her masterful management of the novel's tone, she underscores the value and dignity of single women's lives even as she causes us to laugh at her characters' foibles. Charles Dickens was the first of many readers to extol its wit and charm, and it has consistently been Gaskell's most popular work.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780760795989
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 01/09/2006
Series: Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 179,441
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range: 17 Years

About the Author

Tremendously popular in her lifetime, the books of the English author Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) have often been overshadowed by her contemporaries the Brontës and George Eliot. Yet the reputation of her long-neglected masterpiece Wives and Daughters continues to grow. Gaskell wrote six novels in all — of which North and South and Cranford remain two of the best known — as well as numerous short stories, novellas, and a biography of her great friend Charlotte Brontё.

Introduction


Cranford, a humorous account of a nineteenth-century English village dominated by a group of genteel but modestly circumstanced women, has been Elizabeth Gaskell's most consistently popular work. Charles Dickens was the first of many readers to extol its wit and charm. But its place in the canon of Victorian fiction has been characterized by a peculiar irony. For much of its history there was a tendency to confuse the endearingly old-fashioned quality of the Cranford women with the novel itself, to view Cranford as a delightful but quaint book. Scholars considered it less important than Gaskell's social problem novels, even as they noted its superior style. Now, however, it is recognized as an original and, in its own subtle way, a radical text. By eschewing the conventional marriage plot with its nubile heroines and focusing instead on a group of middle-aged and elderly spinsters, Gaskell did something highly unusual within the novel genre. Through her masterful management of the novel's tone, she underscores the value and dignity of single women's lives even as she causes us to laugh at her characters' foibles. Cranford is as unique and as resilient as the community it celebrates, continuing to captivate new generations of readers.

Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell was born in London in 1810 to William and Elizabeth (Holland) Stevenson. Her father was a Unitarian minister who had given up his living when troubled by scruples about being paid for preaching the Gospel. He supported the family through periodical writing until he obtained a modest post in the civil service. Elizabeth's mother died when Elizabeth was one, and although her father remarried, Elizabeth was raised by her maternal aunt in the country village of Knutsford, Cheshire (the prototype for the fictional Cranford). In 1832 she married William Gaskell, a Unitarian minister, and moved with him to Manchester, the center of the Industrial Revolution. She said she began writing her first novel, Mary Barton, in an attempt to recover from her grief over the loss of an infant son. (Four daughters were to follow.) As a minister's wife visiting the urban poor, she had observed many scenes of working-class misery, and she drew on them in this industrial novel. Published in 1848, it proved to be both successful and controversial. She addressed another contentious topic in Ruth (1853), the story of a fallen woman's redemption. Its composition overlapped with that of the more light-hearted Cranford (1853). Gaskell returned to the subject of labor relations in North and South (1855) and experimented with historical fiction in Sylvia's Lovers (1863), set at the time of the Napoleonic wars. It is a measure of her stature within the Victorian literary world that Charlotte's Brontë's family chose Gaskell to be Brontë's first biographer; The Life of Charlotte Brontë appeared in 1857. At the time of Gaskell's sudden death in 1865, she had all but completed her magisterial Wives and Daughters, which portrays the social exchanges that structure life in a provincial town on the eve of the Victorian period.

While Gaskell's experience as a minister's wife in Manchester provided her with the background to write her social problem novels, her childhood in a country village provided the fodder for Cranford. The ladies of Cranford are based in part on Gaskell's aunts and the other women who formed their circle in Knutsford. The anachronistic customs and the endearing eccentricities of the Cranfordians fuel the story's comedy, but the novel is also an homage to the decency and compassion of the women who surrounded Gaskell in her youth. Gaskell was actually adopted by two women, her widowed Aunt Lumb and her grown cousin Mary Anne, who proposed to her mother that they take in the motherless Elizabeth. After Mary Anne's death the following year another aunt joined the household to help raise Elizabeth. The women were all single; Aunt Lumb, who had left her husband when he proved to be insane, was widowed. In Victorian England, the married state was considered women's proper destiny. But as the 1851 census showed, there were more women than men in the population, leading to public expressions of concern over the so-called "surplus" or "redundant" women. Gaskell's subtle championing of the respectable spinster resonates in this context. She does not romanticize her condition; Matty's sense of herself as a mother manquée, for example, is poignantly rendered. But Gaskell shows the worth of the single women's lives. Underneath their comical social snobbery lie strong communal values. Not only core members of the community like Matty Jenkins but also newcomers or transients like the two Brown families are aided by the community when they are in need. The ethic of care manifested in Gaskell's own adoption characterizes the women who comprise the society at Cranford. Cranford was begun when Gaskell was revisiting Knutsford in her early forties. Back in her childhood home, she wrote what would become the first two chapters of the novel, which Dickens published in the December 1851 edition of his periodical Household Words under the title "Our Society at Cranford." (Further installments appeared over the next two years in the same forum before they were compiled as a book.) Her aunt was no longer living and the community was changing, so Gaskell was recording and celebrating a moment that had passed. The role played by memory in the genesis of this work contributes to its distinctive treatment of time. Writing in the 1850s, Gaskell was a mid-Victorian describing the early Victorian period. But because part of what characterizes the women of Cranford is their retention of customs, manners, and fashions that have become outmoded in society at large, the historical moment often seems further back than it actually is. In addition, the novel is punctuated by embedded reminiscences that temporarily push back the time frame, as when Matty tells the narrator about her parents' marriage and her own early family life, or when we are given the history of the youthful courtship that was the unfulfilled romance of Matty's life. This use of flashbacks, together with Gaskell's adoption of an episodic rather than a linear structure, contributes to an effect aptly described by Gaskell's biographer Jenny Uglow as a "dreamlike shifting and sliding of planes of time."

Linear time sometimes seems to be held in abeyance in Cranford; the narrator notes on one of her visits that the traditional markers of time's passage are absent: "There had been neither births, deaths, nor marriages since I was there last. Everybody lived in the same house, and wore pretty nearly the same well-preserved, old fashioned clothes. . ." (chapter 2). But Cranford's apparent stasis is illusory. Gaskell subtly dramatizes this point by beginning the novel with an episode that occurs years before the remaining chapters. The story of Captain Brown and his encounters with the Cranford ladies, the chapters that establish for us the salient characteristics of this community with its rigid social codes and its emphasis on "elegant economy," treat a period that is already a past moment in the community's history at the time the action proper begins. Captain Brown's arrival in Cranford and his sudden death occur in the 1830s, on the cusp of the Victorian period. (He is reading Pickwick Papers, which was serialized in 1836-7.) At the end of this section, the narrator recalls that years later the Captain's granddaughter would read Johnson aloud to Miss Deborah Jenkyns, sneaking peeks at A Christmas Carol (published in 1843), whenever Deborah dozed off. The rest of the novel takes place after Miss Jenkyns'death, and events will prove that that event constituted a transitional moment in the village's history.

Deborah is survived by her sister Matty, and as many commentators have noted, Deborah and Matty exhibit differences of temperament that can be taken to stand for differences of historical period as well. Deborah, while not lacking an underlying compassion that characterizes Cranford at its best, is rigid and formal. Her veneration of Samuel Johnson, the eighteenth-century writer noted for his cool and elegant prose, and her exaggerated horror of Dickens, a more colorful, emotional, and contemporary writer, is Gaskell's way of humorously underscoring this point. (Though the humor that would have accrued from reading about the battle of Johnson versus Dickens in Household Words was lost. Dickens as editor changed the name of the novel that Captain Brown was reading, fearing to seem indecorously self-promoting. Gaskell was furious about the emendation.) Though the self-effacing Matty wants to be the preserver of her sister's traditions, she cannot help but be less rigid. (The copy of Pickwick Papers, we learn, was hers.) Remembering her own unfulfilled courtship (aborted by Deborah's social snobbery), she breaks with household tradition by allowing her servant to have a follower. When the maid and her husband later play a key role in the economic survival of Miss Matty, we realize that this flexibility, rather than negatively altering the town's character, prolongs it survival. While Matty is not directly responsible for it, it is during the period over which she presides that the social codes of Cranford are slightly and felicitously relaxed. Miss Barker, formerly a ladies' maid and a milliner, is allowed to receive the cream of Cranford society in her home, and Lady Glenmire gives up her title to marry plain Mr. Hoggins, the doctor the ladies had thought insufficiently genteel for their own company. All Victorian fiction inevitably engages with the issue of social mobility, and Cranford is no exception.

The town's society and its customs are presented to us by a narrator who mediates between the anachronistic, provincial Cranfordians and the contemporary, metropolitan reader. Like Gaskell, the narrator Mary Smith belongs to a different generation than do the women whose lives she reveals to us. Mary Smith even sounds like Gaskell; one of the author's biographers, Winfred Gérin, comments that Cranford, "told . . . in a style of intimate confidence, like gossip exchanged with a friend," recalls the tone of the author's letters. The narrator's attitude and Gaskell's are similar; though she may betray her amusement at the eccentric ways of Cranford, Mary never fails to respect its residents. She often gently laughs at their foibles but does not hold herself above them, always including herself in the communal "we." Crucially, though, Mary Smith is both of and not of Cranford. A frequent visitor, much loved by the core members of the community, she hails from the nearby commercial town of Drumble (whose very name echoes with the sound of the activity that is absent in the sleepy village of Cranford). Like Gaskell herself, whose trajectory encompassed Manchester as well as Cheshire, this narrator has "vibrated all [her] life between Drumble and Cranford" (chapter 16). This gives her the perspective necessary to analyze the town; it also allows her to mediate between the values of the two places. This is crucial, for Cranford and Drumble exist in dramatic tension; they are not entirely separate, as we see when Miss Matty's precarious financial security is shattered through a bank failure. It is Mary who is uniquely equipped to find a solution for Matty at this juncture, because she combines the commercial acumen that is a product of her Drumble upbringing with the communitarian values she has absorbed in Cranford. Mary is both the person the community chooses to entrust with their secret kitty for Miss Matty and the person who can think of a way to invest it in a commercial venture that will allow Matty to make a modest living without sacrificing her gentility.

Like another distressed gentlewoman, Hawthorne's Hepzibah Pyncheon, Matty will open a shop in her home. As a tea seller Matty does not follow the strict rules of commercial practice advocated by Mary's father, but she flourishes anyway, because while she weighs the tea she sells too generously, her customers respond by supplementing their payments with offerings in kind. This vestige of a pre-capitalist ethos suggests that Cranford sustains itself through a value system distinct from that prevailing in Drumble, where Matty's father, despite his precautions and suspicions, "lost upward of a thousand pounds by roguery only last year" (chapter 15). The contrast between the value systems of Drumble and Cranford is also evident in Mary's father's response to the sense of personal responsibility Matty assumes as a shareholder when the bank fails. While the exasperated Mr. Smith views it as a mark of her ignorance of the ways of the financial world, for the reader it is evidence that that the code of gentility prevailing in Cranford involves more than empty ritual or face-saving.

Given this conflict between "masculine" commercial values and "feminine" communitarian ones, it is important that Matty's rescue is effected before her brother returns from India. For it means that the women of Cranford are largely self-sufficient; Peter's return is merely an added bonus. In her groundbreaking study of female communities in fiction, Nina Auerbach noted Cranford's "unsettling power to obliterate men . . . [and] its corresponding gift of producing them at need." While Captain Brown and Signor Brunoni are dispatched, Peter remains. But his incorporation into the community does not threaten its character; with his Indian past, Peter merely adds a bit of spice. His alignment with the female element is suggested in the episode that led to his self-imposed banishment from Cranford in the days before it became a bastion of women. Flogged by his father, he is positioned as a victim of masculine power rather than an agent of it. The flogging was provoked by an act of cross-dressing whose purport was to attack Deborah's pretensions, so he is also aligned with the more flexible values embodied by Matty. But while Matty would never criticize her beloved sister, Peter's prank-he dresses up as the unmarried Deborah and carries a pretend baby-is a curiously aggressive one. He acts out resentment that Matty has cause to feel but appears not to. We might speculate that his appearance in the book has a biographical source; Gaskell's much-loved brother, her only sibling to survive to adulthood, was lost at sea. (Unlike Peter, he never returned.)

In the novel's famous opening line Mary Smith says that Cranford "is in possession of the Amazons." The designation is comic; these fussy women are hardly warrior types. But it is also ironically apt, for they prove to have strength and endurance and to be capable of modestly heroic acts of rescue. Elizabeth Gaskell was perhaps uniquely positioned to recognize the way feminine gentleness can go hand in hand with female strength. Her work as a writer always co-existed with her duties as a wife and mother, and her public persona was that of a charming, very feminine woman, an image that contrasted markedly with that of, say, the prickly hermit Charlotte Brontë or the overtly intellectual and "masculine" George Eliot. (Until the final third of the twentieth century, she was routinely referred to in the critical literature as "Mrs. Gaskell.") Yet she never shied away from challenging topics and always knew her own mind (as Dickens would discover when they butted heads over North and South, also serialized in Household Words). The "charming" author of Cranford had a steely core. Hers was one of the most subtly subversive voices in Victorian England, and this work, which manages to be both poignant and sly, is her most disarming.

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Cranford 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 100 reviews.
lesslie More than 1 year ago
Cranford is a charming book about a small English village. It is more of a survey of the people who inhabit the town than it is a plot driven story. The characters are so full of life and are so charming and oftentimes hilarious that you may feel like you are reading a letter from dear friends from home. They have issues to overcome and problems to solve an the ways they go about doing this are circuitous and very entertaining. I laughed at loud and indeed, cried a bit. It's a very short little novel and as the price is more than reasonable, I feel it's essential to the library of anyone wanting the call themselves well read. Their was a delightful movie made about this book which has it's own merits.
writersdd More than 1 year ago
Out of all the E. Gaskell books I've read, Cranford is now my favorite. This publication of the book is deceptively small; there are a lot of words on each page, so it takes longer to read than one would assume at first glance. However, this is a book to be savored and read slowly and, when finished, leaves the reader wanting to return to Cranford. I want to live in the Shire, Narnia, and Cranford.
C28 More than 1 year ago
Cranford is a wonderful story. I fell in love with all the characters, their personalities, and their charming little town. Gaskell does a great job weaving the story of the daily lives of the town's folk, as well as breaking off crumbs of their history to us as the story moves along. This is a book that you can read more than once and always walk away with a good feeling, like spending time with dear old friends. Highly recommended to anyone who hasn't read it or hasn't read it in a while.
warmth More than 1 year ago
I love this time period in England and though this seams like going against the gods she's better at capturing peoples charter than jane austen. Austen is amazing and her chaters are true to themselves but almost to a point of not taking in reality at times. while Gaskells charters true to themselves also but change with the story more. they are lovely acounts of small town life for a upper middle class women of the day. wives and daughters is still my favorite work of hers but this brought a smile to my face.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a truly remarkable book, similar to Jewett's 'Country of the Painted Firs' and Jan Neruda's 'Prague Tales.' It's an episodic account of the idiosyncratic world of genteely poor women in a tiny village, portrayed with warmth, sadness, and pride. You can't help but love these women and, like the narrator from a nearby city, to be part of their world for at least a while. Gaskell is magnficent.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Has anyone else noticed that the reviews above mine are posted for at least four different versions of this book? Do they automatically do that? Because some versions are actually formatted more nicely than others... If I were you, I'd go for the cheap one; it has the same reviews as the others!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This Elizabeth Gaskell book was an interesting study of village life ... the importantce of appearance and pride, and the distortion of gossip. Very much like life today. Things haven't changed that much, and that is what struck me most about this book. I admit, I enjoyed Wives and Daughters much more than Cranford. Cranford was more a book of vignettes, so it was difficult to attach myself to an individual character, other than the naive, sweet, and delightful Miss Matty. She brought both tears and smiles.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Well it moves kinda slow, but I do applaude Elizabeth Gaskell's fee flow of mannerly gossip and phrasing.One can definitely picture the characters of this story through the way they respond to each other in conversation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Cranford is a wonderful light hearted classic. The story is narraited by Mary Smith as she relates the adventures of the residents of the small country village of Cranford in England during the late 1830's to the early 1840's.
May-Flowers More than 1 year ago
I love Cranford. It is a funny, light-hearted look at some very memorable ladies' lives. The language used may be hard for those not used to older English writing, and if you want a plot driven story than you may not like this book as it is more character driven. The plot lines of the various people are more like anecdotes strung together by the narrator over the course of years. I found this format quite enjoyable though, and somewhat unusual for a book written by a woman in that era.Overall it is just lovely light reading for  a fan of old novels looking for a few laughs.
jenieliser on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. It's not heavy in plot, but a light read about some cute little ladies. I thought of my great grandmother and her little cute ways throughout the entire book.
FionaRobynIngram on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cranford is one of the better-known novels of the 19th century English writer Elizabeth Gaskell. It was first published in 1851 as a serial in the magazine Household Words, which was edited by Charles Dickens. The fictional town of Cranford is closely modelled on Knutsford in Cheshire, which Mrs. Gaskell knew well. The book has little in the way of plot and is more a series of episodes in the lives of Mary Smith and her friends, Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two spinster sisters. But what is it about Cranford and its deceptively simple tales of country life that makes the work so appealing? It has been aptly described as `a piece of exquisite social painting¿ ¿ `tender¿ and `delicate.¿ Narrated by Mary Smith, a friend of Miss Matty and frequent visitor to Cranford, the lives, loves, tragedies, and triumphs of the inhabitants of Cranford are woven together seamlessly to create a tapestry portraying timeless emotions and choices.The petty social bickering, cold shouldering and jockeying for importance in the village¿s pecking order are outlined in a humorous yet pointed way¿the author loves her characters, with all their faults, and is tolerant of their foibles while holding them up to gentle ridicule. In every community there is an arbiter of good taste, a setter of trends, a leader of public opinion, and all the other social whimsies that make up this colourful collection of characters. It is not easy to keep secrets in this closed environment, and as Mary Smith remarks, ¿It was impossible to live a month at Cranford, and not know the daily habits of each resident ¿.¿ Despite the squabbles and occasional `no speaks,¿ the ladies of Cranford would rather die than see one of their own fall by the wayside. It is the community spirit that inspires Miss Matty¿s friends to decide to donate a portion of their annual income to sustain their beloved friend when an investment goes sour. As a different kind of history book and one that very possibly the author did not set out to write as such, Cranford is actually an analysis of an early Victorian country town. The inhabitants are shaken and disturbed by inevitable changes such as industrialization, the advent of the railway and other events that force an inescapable transition into an increasingly modern world.The appeal of Cranford cannot be better described than in the popularity of the BBC drama series. The teleplay by Heidi Thomas was adapted from three novellas by Elizabeth Gaskell published between 1849 and 1858: Cranford, My Lady Ludlow, and Mr. Harrison's Confessions. (The Last Generation in England was also used as a source.)A gentle, charming read, Cranford has much more to offer the discerning reader than a unassuming look at country life.
JudithProctor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A gentle book in which nothing much happens, but which happens in such minute detail that you end up fascinated by the social mores of who will condescend to speak to whom in a tiny English village.These are the upper class women who didn't find a rich husband, and are trapped by poverty and social convention into a genteel poverty that seeks desperately to convince itself that any sign of wealth would be ostentatious in any case.Yet, even in this stilted social setting, the people are still capable of quiet acts of kindness (and have the understanding to conceal their help so as not to burden their friend with the need for gratitude).This is a book that I'm sure I'll read again.
VirginiaGill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oddly I half expected this book to be funny...it wasn't. Rather it was boring beyond measure. If it hadn't been a book club choice (and admittedly I chose it) I would never have finished it. Not a book I would recommend to others.
PensiveCat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A pleasant story that ends with a bank bust. Lots of quirky ladies involved, mostly with good hearts, and what's not to love about Miss Matty. It takes a while to find out the name of the narrator, and then it's done with little fanfare. A friendly counterpoint to all the Dickens I've been reading, and well written too. Did I mention the tea business? After I finished the book I watched the recent miniseries. It seems a few other Gaskell stories were incorporated into Cranford, and some of the plots were tweaked. Read the book first.
Prop2gether on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a short novel by a Victorian contemporary of Dickens and Bronte who was well-known for her longer novels. This short novel is a simple slice-of-life story of the single women in a small English town from the early to mid-Victorian era of the 1800¿s. At a time when a woman¿s principal goal was marriage (for survival purposes, if nothing else), the fact was that more women than men meant simply that a lot of single women had to live day-to-day. This is a marvelous telling of that story¿how the women of Cranford worked together and apart to keep appearances and spirits up. I loved this book although I had tried to read it twice before without success. It is slow-paced (like its characters), but loving and genuinely compassionate, in its treatment of all the inhabitants of Cranford. It is also one of the 1001 Must Read books¿and this is one I have no problem with being on the list.
Laiane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A thoroughly enjoyable gem of a book. I like authors who play with language and complicated sentence structure, and I was not disappointed. Witty, subtle, and charming.
TrishNYC on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Absolutely lovely book!!! I loved every second of it and I was sad to leave Cranford when it was over. The village of Cranford is a place that is oddly overpopulated with middle age women. The women here would not dare think of themselves as equal to men, they believe themselves superior to men!! The women for the most part are all "genteel poor", as in they all have a claim to some form of respectability. Their lack of funds is never spoken of and to broach such a subject would be considered vulgar. This book is a delight and I would highly recommend it especially to anyone who liked Gaskell's other work, North and South. This book is much "lighter" than North and South in its subject matter and deals peripherally with the coming industrial revolution.
xine2009 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very impressive and enjoyable.
Kasthu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Last winter, I rented Cranford, the BBC miniseries (starring Judi Dench), from Netflix¿and that got me interested in the book on which that¿s based. The book is a series of vignettes about the ladies of the town of Cranford, many of whom are elderly spinsters like Miss Matty Jenkyns and her sister Deborah, or Miss Pole (much as I tried not to, I kept seeing Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton in the roles of Miss Matty and Miss Pole).This short story differs significantly from the miniseries; the miniseries focuses a lot on the encroachment of the railways on the town of Cranford, and there¿s a romantic subplot going on there. The book is much more centered on the middle-aged and elderly ladies of the town, as seen through a semi-outsider, Miss Mary Smith, the daughter of a family friend of the Jenkynses.As another reviewer said on Librarything, reading about the ladies of Cranford is a lot like reading about the Golden Girls. This is a very lighthearted, funny book in many places, but still very touching. The ladies are very provincial, focused on the mundane details of their lives¿but very loyal to one another, as seen when Matty looses her money and her friends conspire to help her out. It took a few pages for me to get into the story, but once I did, I was fully engaged in the lives of the characters in this book.
StoutHearted on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Though the subject of the novel is a group of quaint, elderly ladies bent on manners and morality, the wit is sharp, the storytelling endearing, and the humor raucously funny. In fact, the humor took me completely by surprise. From the clueless old woman who take advice given in jest literally and dresses up her cow in grey flannel, to the maid forbidden to take followers who insists she never takes on more than one at a time, every page presents one hilarious comment and eccentricity after another. But the novel doesn't cross the line and mocks its own characters; it balances well sweet, endearing moments with the laughter.The town of Cranford is "ruled" by spinster sisters Deborah and Matty Jenkins, Miss Pole, and widows Mrs. Jamieson and Mrs. Forrester. The women live in genteel poverty, valuing their social positions above monetary wealth. Wearing an outdated dress is no matter, but heaven help a woman who marries below her station!The book moves along in chronological order without a major plot. Instead, we are given 16 chapters of Cranford life: their highs, their lows, their triumphs,and their faults. We are left with a charming portraiture of village life and of characters we would not mind knowing better.An absolute must-read. I knew before I finished the fist chapter that this book would be a favorite.
ishtahar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all of the holders of houses above a certain rent are women."Cranford is not exactly a novel, rather a series of short stories published in Dickens' Household Words taking place amongst the old maids and widows of the fictional (but seems to be a village in Lancashire) village of Cranford. Unlike Gaskell's other works it doesn't contain any of the social aspects of life in the Victorian age (apart from the social etiquette of when and which tea to serve), but it does focus on women; and although these women are genteel simple village women, they are as strong and independent as the Manchester heroines of North and South and Mary Barton. It's also hilariously funny in places - a gorgeous Sunday afternoon read.
Romonko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
These little stories are about life and love in the mid-nineteenth century. This book was first printed as serials as so many books were at that time. By the time Mrs. Gaskell wrote Cranford, she was extremely popular with the English people. This book is essentially a comedy of manners. The people in Cranford live genteelly and they are very proud of that fact even if they don't have much money. The book is about four old ladies and the life they lead. Mrs. Gaskell's characterizations are wonderful. Their lives consist of tea, cards and gossip. This is a book about ladies. There are very few men in it, but we certainly get a good description of the male species from the ladies' observations. It's a wonderful world that Mrs. Gaskell has created for us. Come and meet the wonderful ladies of Cranford.
cdeuker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very pleasant glimpse into an unusual world--single aging women of the 19th century. Poor, but hiding their poverty. Gentle and genteel. None of the explosiveness of Dickens, but well worth reading.
bell7 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A young visitor recounts her adventures with some of the older ladies - primarily spinsters and widows - of Cranford as they live their lives in a charming small town.My idea of Elizabeth Gaskell's writings was completely different from reality. I had read a couple of short stories as an English major, confused them, and had this image of Gaskell as the John Steinbeck of the Victorian Era. I overcame some reluctance to even add Cranford to my TBR list. And am I glad I did! This book is a delightful, episodic tale of a small town and its inhabitants. The narrator often stays with Miss Matty while visiting the town, so many of the events involve this lady in some way or another. As I think about the book, I'm realizing that very little actually happens by way of plot, but the characters are by turns sweet, funny, and quirky. The story gives a picture of small town life in general as well as the class distinctions of its time period in an amusing, rather than depressing, way. Cranford has definitely convinced me to try more by this author.