July 3, 2012

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell: Review (sort of)

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So, Cranford… It’s not full of car chases and everyone kept their shirt on. I’m not sure what to say about it. It’s cute? It has a happy ending? Hmm, maybe I’ll start with a synopsis and go from there.cranford

The narrator, whom we later learn is named Mary, visits the town of Cranford over a few years. She’s friends with the (elderly?) ladies Matty and her sister Deborah. Mary reports on the adventures of the the two ladies (one dies fairly early on) which are of the old lady variety. They visit people, gossip, play cards, etc. It’s all very cute and cheeky. Mary is very droll and there is a bit of an edge to her reporting, though you can tell that she loves the ladies and the little village.

I don’t have a lot to say about Cranford because although I liked reading it at the time, it didn’t really stick with me. I’ve put off writing my thoughts on it and now some time has passed and not much of the book has left an impression. I wouldn’t put it up there on my favorites list but I didn’t hate it either.

The only thing that I came away with was how difficult it was in the 1800s to be a single lady of slim means. Any financial difficulty could result in a life and death situation. With no training or ability to make a living, a middle class lady was dependent on friends to see her through. I imagine many did not have the happy ending this character did in real life.

I hear the mini-series is very good. Maybe watching it will help.


  1. I remember that I was surprised when I read it how light this book was. The previous Gaskell books I'd read (Ruth and Mary Barton) were much heavier reads--all about how terrible women had it. The miniseries is fun, but it's not a favorite.

  2. Hm, this just sounds like an okay read. I don't think I'll seek it out.

  3. I'm thinking the same as Kathy, it sounds alright but nothing special. I wanted to like Gaskell but I've come to think she's just not for me.

  4. Maybe that's just the insight Gaskell was hoping for! I loved Wives and Daughters, but will wait on this one, I think.

  5. I read this in some awful British Victorian Lit class I was forced into in undergrad (the only class that fit my schedule and I needed one more to finish up the major).

    What I recall was it was less painful than other books in the class. But that was about the best I could say about it.

  6. "it's not full of car chases and everyone kept their shirt on." I feel like you're trying to discourage us. :)

    The mini-series is surprisingly good, but I'm not sure I'd want to read it, if that makes sense.

  7. Yep, I felt a bit the same way. I enjoyed the TV series though.

  8. I loved this book, but did not like the mini-series. The lightness of the story, as you say, just didn't translate well to the small screen. The mini-series tried to inject too much plot into what is really a plotless piece of fluff. It's fluff, it's true, but very tasty fluff.

  9. The miniseries combines a few different stories by Gaskell and I wasn't crazy about that. I like Cranford because of the great way the setting was created. But I was a fan of it in general. I think it's a great look at Victorian society. I understand the disappointment at how slow it was though...


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