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Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (Phoenix Classics)

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Cranford is a witty portrait of small town life in early-Victorian England. The story unfolds through the eyes of Mary Smith, a young woman who observes the comedic struggles of two middle aged sisters in their efforts to maintain a level of refined dignity amid poverty.


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Cranford is a witty portrait of small town life in early-Victorian England. The story unfolds through the eyes of Mary Smith, a young woman who observes the comedic struggles of two middle aged sisters in their efforts to maintain a level of refined dignity amid poverty.

30 review for Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (Phoenix Classics)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Written as a series of vignettes about living in a small English town, Elizabeth Gaskell isn't bothered about any plot with Cranford (which was originally edited by Charles Dickens), she simply focuses on a small group of ladies and their adventures (or lack of), as they meander, yawn, and gossip their way through mid 19th century life. While it may not be the sort of book to keep you up half the night with clammy hands, it's pleasant and good old-fashioned nature is where it's power lies, which Written as a series of vignettes about living in a small English town, Elizabeth Gaskell isn't bothered about any plot with Cranford (which was originally edited by Charles Dickens), she simply focuses on a small group of ladies and their adventures (or lack of), as they meander, yawn, and gossip their way through mid 19th century life. While it may not be the sort of book to keep you up half the night with clammy hands, it's pleasant and good old-fashioned nature is where it's power lies, which will have you reaching for the tea pot, rather than that bottle of wine. Harkening back to a relaxed and simpler time, before the mad stampede of boxing day sales, life crawled along like a snail on sedatives for the locals, they concern themselves less with who's sleeping with whom, or, does my bum look big in this? and just amuse themselves with their knitting of nice fluffy cardigans, charitable acts that were the norm, invitations for sunday tea and cake, polite card games that didn't result in drunkenness or violence, and trying on the lastest bonnet. A life that is unfathomable to the rapidly-shrinking world of today, which makes this all the more special for its portrayal of this historical era, a world far away from all the buzzing and ticking of modern day appliances. These are less like neatly organised narratives, and read more like the stories one would casually include in a letter to a friend. It isn't really a novel in the true sense, although characters like Miss matty or Miss Pole could quite easily have been plucked out of a number of other older British novels. Cranford, based on Knutsford, Cheshire, is a place where the gardens are full of flowers rather than weeds, and you can almost smell the scent of honey blossom blowing in the breeze. Put it this way, I would sooner be here than south central Los Angeles. Parts of Cranford are wonderfully funny, but it is also bathed in a poignant dream-like mood, that encapsulates the spirit of a by-gone era. From the landed gentry, professional men and the genteel widows, to the respectable poor and those on the brink of crime, the local hierarchy are vividly bought to life under the watchful eye of Gaskell, who writes with delight. There are a couple of main themes to touch on. Money worries, and the limitations and lack of options for women, especially unmarried women, at the time. Regardless of differing opinion, the fact of the matter is that single women over a certain age without family money or male companionship, found themselves in the awful situation of having very few socially acceptable options to provide an income upon which they could live. The ladies of Cranford are a resilient bunch, full of warmth and dignity, and have each other if the chips are down. The way that the women all banded together even though they were a mix of classes, purely because they all wanted to live the same way was so precious. I admit, I enjoyed this more than what I expected, and it was nice to return to a time when people didn't rely on gizmos and gadgets to function properly.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    "the humor is so sly. at times it's difficult to believe that this was written over 150 years ago. I guess that gentle social humor has always been with us." --- this was one of my status updates while reading Cranford, my first experience reading Elizabeth Gaskell. As I finished reading, I felt the same way: pleased with the experience, surprised at the wit and wisdom written so well so many years ago. But then I ask myself...Why am I surprised? There are always intelligent women and always int "the humor is so sly. at times it's difficult to believe that this was written over 150 years ago. I guess that gentle social humor has always been with us." --- this was one of my status updates while reading Cranford, my first experience reading Elizabeth Gaskell. As I finished reading, I felt the same way: pleased with the experience, surprised at the wit and wisdom written so well so many years ago. But then I ask myself...Why am I surprised? There are always intelligent women and always intelligent women who find ways to make themselves heard even in less than enthusiastic societies. I need to keep looking for them! I had planned to include some of the truly wonderful quotes from various characters but instead I challenge you to read this book and discover them for yourself. I venture to say you will be glad you did.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kerri

    I ended up loving this book so much! You follow a group of (older) women, mainly unmarried or widowed, in the small 'rural backwater of Cranford', and it's alot of talking, gossiping and dipping in and out of lives. It was a very funny book, my favourite line being, "My father was a man, and I know the sex pretty well." (It is probably much funnier in context, but I've had it popping into my head constantly over the day). Amongst all their obsession with each others lives are some very poignant I ended up loving this book so much! You follow a group of (older) women, mainly unmarried or widowed, in the small 'rural backwater of Cranford', and it's alot of talking, gossiping and dipping in and out of lives. It was a very funny book, my favourite line being, "My father was a man, and I know the sex pretty well." (It is probably much funnier in context, but I've had it popping into my head constantly over the day). Amongst all their obsession with each others lives are some very poignant revelations - how it would be nice to have a little more money, how a spinster might have married but didn't, the grieving for a child that never had the opportunity to exist (this in particular was heartbreaking), and the way that, for all their gossiping and occasional pettiness, the women rally around each other without fail. I would point out, it's most likely not for everyone - not a lot actually happens. They talk, visit each other, time passes. There are events, moments of drama, but it's a gentle story which I know bores some people. For me however, it felt like an almost perfect read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Cranford, Elizabeth Gaskell Cranford is one of the better-known novels of the 19th-century English writer Elizabeth Gaskell. There is no real plot, but rather a collection of satirical sketches, which sympathetically portray changing small town customs and values in mid Victorian England. Harkening back to memories of her childhood in the small Cheshire town of Knutsford, Cranford is Elizabeth Gaskell's affectionate portrait of people and customs that were already becoming anachronisms.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Piyangie

    Cranford is quite an unusual book. Having read North and South and Wives and Daughters , this novel (if you can call it one) took me by surprise. To begin with, it has no proper plot or structure. It is rather a written collection of lives, customs and social values of people of a fictitious town called "Cranford" which is modelled after the small Cheshire town of Knutsford. At first, I thought it is a collection of short stories. But as I read on I found connectivity between the Cranford is quite an unusual book. Having read North and South and Wives and Daughters , this novel (if you can call it one) took me by surprise. To begin with, it has no proper plot or structure. It is rather a written collection of lives, customs and social values of people of a fictitious town called "Cranford" which is modelled after the small Cheshire town of Knutsford. At first, I thought it is a collection of short stories. But as I read on I found connectivity between the chapters so as to make it one continuous whole. Although there is no proper story, this collected writing was engaging enough to keep you reading on. The story or rather the collection of writing revolves around a set of elderly ladies, who dominate the society of the small town of Cranford, setting its customs and values. Anyone who goes against these accepted conventions were looked down upon as "vulgar". In a changing society, these ladies were doing their very best to hold on to outdated customs and conventions. Being written as a narrative by a young visitor and friend to Cranford ladies, who is not a part of that stringent society, makes the account unbiased and believable. I do appreciate Ms. Gaskell's prudence in bringing a narrator who is only an observer. With all that being said, what really arrested my attention and kept my interest in this unusual collection was the satirical writing of Ms. Gaskell, of fading Victorian customs and values to which the elder generation has so clung to, as a religion. The changes that were coming about with the industrialization were most unwelcoming to this slowly dying generation. And their views were proclaimed with witty and satirical dialogues which were so entertaining to the reader. At the same time, they invoke the reader's sympathy for the poor old ladies. Overall, although this was so unexpected an outcome from one of my best loved authors, it was nevertheless a pleasant read. I did enjoy it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I'll admit I'm no procurer of Victorian liteary novels, but I've always wanted to dabble in the works of Elizabeth Gaskell, the woman who had the honor of writing The Life of Charlotte Brontë. Cranford is said to be slightly humorous, with a unique take on the lives of women during that era. A bit humorous, partly due to the preposterousness of the attitudes surrounding small town etiquette, yes, but I wouldn't call it humorous in the general sense. And yet these characters are electrifying and their ev I'll admit I'm no procurer of Victorian liteary novels, but I've always wanted to dabble in the works of Elizabeth Gaskell, the woman who had the honor of writing The Life of Charlotte Brontë. Cranford is said to be slightly humorous, with a unique take on the lives of women during that era. A bit humorous, partly due to the preposterousness of the attitudes surrounding small town etiquette, yes, but I wouldn't call it humorous in the general sense. And yet these characters are electrifying and their everyday stories absorbing, which made me curious about the backdrop of Gaskell's creativity, where she produced such stories, and it led me to this beautiful picture of her home: Gaskell House, Plymouth Grove, Manchester (cc Creative Commons Patyo1994) Cranford is a village of people who, at the risk of seeming pretentious, choose to ignore anything uncomfortable, anything that suggests lack. For example, the person who cannot afford a maid would hire someone temporarily when entertaining friends and pretend as if the maid is a permanent fixture, even though she is aware that everyone knows this is false. No one speaks of another's wants, so imagine the disdain when a newcomer, Captain Brown, arrives and cannot stop speaking simply and openly about his poverty. These small exchanges, highlighted by Gaskell's stylized prose, do add mirth to this ceremonial narrative. If we walked to or from a party, it was because the night was so fine, or the air so refreshing, not because sedan chairs were expensive. If we wore prints,instead of summer silks, it was because we preferred a washing material; and so on till we blinded ourselves to the vulgar fact that we were, all of us, people of very moderate means. Each chapter proceeds in a short story fashion, with a narrator who you never really get to properly meet, but one who has a grasp on the village's idiosyncrasies. The characters are mostly unmarried women who are older and more reflective, so the reader is given stories from those pivotal moments of their lives, thus one gets an idea of the cultural dynamic. The atmospheric vibe is pensive, as each new chapter is an evolution of Cranford, a tilt to the village's personality and character. The contemporary comparative narrative that comes to mind is Olive Kitteridge, although I'll admit that no one character is really as dominant and memorable as good ole Olive. And as I write this, I'm already considering how Gaskell's other novels, like Mary Barton or Ruth for example, would compare to this for me, since I do plan on sampling at least another one of her works.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    FINALLY, an Elizabeth Gaskell book that I enjoyed! I honestly didn't think I would enjoy this book, and was almost regretting putting it on my Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon TBR. And whaddya know, I finished it! Cranford follows a group of women living in the small fictional town of, you guessed it, Cranford. The women live in "genteel poverty" and have very old-fashioned mindsets about life and social niceties and norms. The book is told from the perspective of Mary Smith (or Elizabeth Gaskell), FINALLY, an Elizabeth Gaskell book that I enjoyed! I honestly didn't think I would enjoy this book, and was almost regretting putting it on my Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon TBR. And whaddya know, I finished it! Cranford follows a group of women living in the small fictional town of, you guessed it, Cranford. The women live in "genteel poverty" and have very old-fashioned mindsets about life and social niceties and norms. The book is told from the perspective of Mary Smith (or Elizabeth Gaskell), and focuses mainly on Miss Matty, a sweet-tempered older woman who is one of the pillars of society since the death of her older, revered sister Deborah Jenkyns. This book was cute and sweet and quite funny, which did surprise me. Although it took a little while for me to get used to the language (haven't read a classic in a while, and I usually find Gaskell's writing a little long-winded), it ended up becoming a much easier read than I anticipated. Once you are familiar with the cast of characters and their personalities, it is really enjoyable seeing what will happen to them next. If you're a fan of Gaskell, or even not a fan of Gaskell, I'd definitely recommend it. I'm glad I didn't give up on her writing. Who knows, maybe I'll read another of her books at some point!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    This is a book about the village of Cranford which mainly women inhabit; women who live according to customs and norms and who are quite fond of gossip. If you think this sounds good then this might be a book for you, but I personally got very tired of it very quickly. Each chapter follows a new anecdote, and while some of them were quite entertaining, most of them were dull and quite shallow, in my eyes. I'm sure the ladies of those days thought them of the utmost importance, but I couldn't see This is a book about the village of Cranford which mainly women inhabit; women who live according to customs and norms and who are quite fond of gossip. If you think this sounds good then this might be a book for you, but I personally got very tired of it very quickly. Each chapter follows a new anecdote, and while some of them were quite entertaining, most of them were dull and quite shallow, in my eyes. I'm sure the ladies of those days thought them of the utmost importance, but I couldn't seem to care much about their fascination with a male visitor, their tea party intrigues or their money problems. I loved "Wives and Daughters" by Elizabeth Gaskell, but this one not so much, unfortunately.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    This short tale by Elizabeth Gaskell portrays life in the middle 1800s in a rural English community modeled on Cheshire, a county in northwestern England. It focuses on the lives of women. The men in the village always disappear--either they die, or they quite simply go somewhere else. Underlying the fantasy of such a place ever existing are elements of down-to-earth reality, elements depicting the difficulties women of that era had to deal with. What was required of a woman to survive if left w This short tale by Elizabeth Gaskell portrays life in the middle 1800s in a rural English community modeled on Cheshire, a county in northwestern England. It focuses on the lives of women. The men in the village always disappear--either they die, or they quite simply go somewhere else. Underlying the fantasy of such a place ever existing are elements of down-to-earth reality, elements depicting the difficulties women of that era had to deal with. What was required of a woman to survive if left widowed? Spinsters, how might they get by? One’s rank and social standing had to always be considered. Keeping up appearances was the dictum of the day. Gossip was ever prevalent. The book looks at how women view / viewed not only men but also each other, now and in that bygone era of old-fashioned ways. Irony and satire set the tone. Fantasy and the real are mixed. While the tone is light, threads of seriousness ground the tale in reality. So, what is the main message of the story? Women, as well as men, have their foibles. Neither sex is without their faults. Life’s joys, sorrows and difficulties are easier to bear when shared with another, but women are strong and resilient and can manage on their own, if need be. A two star rating means the book is OK. I am not saying it is bad. Yet I do not think that which it says is all that remarkable. The outcome is terribly predictable. I chuckled at the humor at the start but grew weary of it by the book’s end. If you are in the mood for a light, quick read, pick it up. The story does not consist of separate vignettes; the chapters intertwine, and the story becomes one. Davina Porter narrates the audiobook VERY well. Her ability to flip between male and female characters is extraordinary. The speed and pacing are just as they should be. I have given the narration four stars. Maybe Porter’s performance is worthy of five. **************** *Wives and Daughters 4 stars *North and South 2 stars *Cranford 2 stars *Ruth TBR *Cousin Phyllis TBR

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Delightful! I went into this totally blind, knowing only that it's a respected classic by the author of NORTH AND SOUTH. I had no idea what to expect, but I certainly wasn't expecting this! CRANFORD is all about the village of Cranford, which is mostly inhabited by shabby genteel spinsters and widows. The whole book is a serious of humorous vignettes about life there as related by an outsider, Mary Smith, who frequently goes to stay with her elderly friend Miss Matty. Through the eyes of the nar Delightful! I went into this totally blind, knowing only that it's a respected classic by the author of NORTH AND SOUTH. I had no idea what to expect, but I certainly wasn't expecting this! CRANFORD is all about the village of Cranford, which is mostly inhabited by shabby genteel spinsters and widows. The whole book is a serious of humorous vignettes about life there as related by an outsider, Mary Smith, who frequently goes to stay with her elderly friend Miss Matty. Through the eyes of the narrator we see scandals like a charming widow remarrying (and to a man beneath her station, no less!), a roguish foreign conjuror turning out to be an Englishman in a turban- or is he? and a wave of petty crime that causes the good ladies to sleep with one eye open and a series of elaborate traps laid out to catch the thieves- or maybe they're murderers- or perhaps even horrid Irish beggars! Though some real drama does occur, it is covered with a light touch and the overall impression of the book is one of gentle humor. Quite a refreshing surprise, considering that I have recently read FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD and some of Louisa May Alcott's preachier entries into the fiction world!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    What a gorgeous book. After years of avoiding Victorian literature, in the past twelve months I've fallen in love with Gaskell's writing. This is a short work: more a series of episodes than a linear narrative. It centres on the lives of a group of women who dominate society in the small town of Cranford. They are united by being single - widows and spinsters - and by the fact that live in genteel poverty. Cranford is at times laugh-out-loud funny, at times deeply moving. Within five minutes of starting What a gorgeous book. After years of avoiding Victorian literature, in the past twelve months I've fallen in love with Gaskell's writing. This is a short work: more a series of episodes than a linear narrative. It centres on the lives of a group of women who dominate society in the small town of Cranford. They are united by being single - widows and spinsters - and by the fact that live in genteel poverty. Cranford is at times laugh-out-loud funny, at times deeply moving. Within five minutes of starting the novel I was laughing at the gentle satire on human foibles and life in a small town. Forty minutes later, I was crying about the death of one of the characters. The pattern of alternating laughter and tears continued until the very end. At least, the tears don't last quite till the end: it's a book which thankfully ends on a happy note. Cranford is sentimental, but not cloyingly so. The humour cuts through the sentiment, while making the sad moments even more poignant. The novel is a first person narrative in the form of a memoir. Relatively little is revealed about the narrator, although more becomes known about her as the novel progresses. The narrator is herself a lovely character, although the real star of the novel is the wonderful Miss Matty Jenkyns. I love Miss Matty and I loved spending time in Cranford. I'm particularly happy to have listened to the Naxos audiobook version, superbly narrated by Clare Wille. Now I have to watch the BBC television series and see how it measures up to the original. This is a 4-1/2 star read.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    3.5 stars, rounded down. Want to take a trip to a small English town in the mid 1800s, meet the people and see what everyday life was like for the female population? Open Cranford and travel in time. It is a sweet and simple book, comprised of what seems more like vignettes than an actual plot line. Nothing exciting happens, life just unfolds, and yet you feel attached to these women, admiring the grace with which they handle their sometimes difficult world, the way they navigate a sy 3.5 stars, rounded down. Want to take a trip to a small English town in the mid 1800s, meet the people and see what everyday life was like for the female population? Open Cranford and travel in time. It is a sweet and simple book, comprised of what seems more like vignettes than an actual plot line. Nothing exciting happens, life just unfolds, and yet you feel attached to these women, admiring the grace with which they handle their sometimes difficult world, the way they navigate a system that pigeonholes them and limits them. Miss Matty Jenkyns is such a sweet and gentle person. She always thinks of others before self and tries to please everyone, sometimes to her own detriment. She exhibits very little self-pity, and when she caves to even the simplest bit of a well-deserved indulgence, she succumbs to guilt and remorse immediately. Her life has been about self-sacrifice and a bit of bullying by her older sister, but she is so non-judgmental and well-loved by others, that you feel her sacrifice has not been unrewarded. Matty is not a character I will easily forget. I do not think this is one of Gaskell’s best works. North and South has more substance; Mary Barton is much stronger. Still, Cranford is heart-warming and touching in many ways and I am glad to have read it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Marquise

    This little novel about small-town life in 19th century England deals with a group of ladies in Cranford and their daily travails, is easy to read and filled with amusing anecdotes. The story flies by too quickly and ends too soon, however, leaving a taste of insubstantiality and emptiness, like when you finish eating candy floss (cotton candy, for the Americans out there). Because this book doesn't really tell a story in the traditional sense, with a start, a middle and an end, and there's no t This little novel about small-town life in 19th century England deals with a group of ladies in Cranford and their daily travails, is easy to read and filled with amusing anecdotes. The story flies by too quickly and ends too soon, however, leaving a taste of insubstantiality and emptiness, like when you finish eating candy floss (cotton candy, for the Americans out there). Because this book doesn't really tell a story in the traditional sense, with a start, a middle and an end, and there's no traditional character arc either but it's rather just a more or less linear series of anecdotes protagonised by the same bunch of womenfolk, and so one is left wondering, "What is the point of this?" There's likely none really. Maybe Gaskell's only purpose was to illustrate the country lifestyle of a gone-by era, which she tells in a tone tinged with heavy nostalgia and longing for a simpler life with the Industrial Revolution running full steam on its way to change Britain for good.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Is it possible to discuss Cranford without using the word "charming?" It'd be like playing literary Taboo. Like trying to talk about The Road without saying "bleak," or Catcher in the Rye without "insufferable twat." Cranford is a charming book. If it seems a bit more episodic than plot-driven, it's because it is; it was originally commissioned by Dickens as a series of eight essays for his publication Household Works. It was enormously popular, so Gaskell ended up novelizing it. And it does have Is it possible to discuss Cranford without using the word "charming?" It'd be like playing literary Taboo. Like trying to talk about The Road without saying "bleak," or Catcher in the Rye without "insufferable twat." Cranford is a charming book. If it seems a bit more episodic than plot-driven, it's because it is; it was originally commissioned by Dickens as a series of eight essays for his publication Household Works. It was enormously popular, so Gaskell ended up novelizing it. And it does have a bit more plot than it's given credit for: it has a protagonist - Miss Matty - and an arc - her several swings in fortune. (And when I heard Dame Judi Dench had played Miss Matty for the BBC, my response was, "Well, of course she did." That was as inevitable as Patrick Stewart playing Professor X, or Ken Branagh frothing his way through King Lear in 2030.) It's also partly autobiographical; many of the most vivid scenes are from Gaskell's upbringing in the very similar town of Knutsford, and first appeared in her autobiographical essay The Last Generation. If the drop-dead hilarious story involving lace and pussies seems a bit out of place to you...it's too weird not to be true. Books that try to be funny rarely work for me; Cranford is a rare exception. I was entertained. There's some debate over whether Cranford is a feminist book or not. You could argue that it depicts a utopian society run by women (Amazons, even!) who take care of each other; and you could point to the narrator's detailed rundown of the things Miss Matty isn't qualified to do (Ch. XIV) as a critique of the lack of education available to women, which it is. Or you could call it a loving satire of a bunch of silly old ladies in bad hats. Charlotte Bronte - one of a circle of close, supportive female friends Gaskell created, which also included Florence Nightingale - wrote that William Thackeray should take Cranford, "put himself to bed, and lie there...til he had learnt by diligent study how to be satirical without being exquisitely bitter." Both of those readings are accurate, and I think Cranford is as feminist as you want it to be, in the same way that 2 Live Crew are - or were - as nasty as they wanted to be, which in retrospect was not honestly all that nasty. And in fact both parties - Gaskell and 2 Live Crew - talked a great deal about pussies, though in different contexts.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katie Lumsden

    I adore this one. A brilliant, fascinating book. It's not necessarily Gaskell's best written but it's written so lovingly, with such wonderful characters and such a realisation and enjoyable presentation of a small town and the community of women within it, that I can't help but love it. It's also hilarious! (I'd also highly recommend the Penguin Classics edition - it has brilliant appendixes and notes at the back!)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Inder

    Ah, so delightful! I loved this. It's really a series of vignettes, and, if there is a plot at all, it doesn't show up until halfway through. But it's so funny! And sad! And it's all about women! I laughed aloud a few times, and almost cried a few other times. Sigh. I'm such a sucker for this stuff. But I loved it. Despite its disjunctive narrative, I read the whole book in less than three days. But I'm strange that way. For Happy (I would alert readers to spoilers, but there actually isn't muc Ah, so delightful! I loved this. It's really a series of vignettes, and, if there is a plot at all, it doesn't show up until halfway through. But it's so funny! And sad! And it's all about women! I laughed aloud a few times, and almost cried a few other times. Sigh. I'm such a sucker for this stuff. But I loved it. Despite its disjunctive narrative, I read the whole book in less than three days. But I'm strange that way. For Happy (I would alert readers to spoilers, but there actually isn't much to spoil): Yeah, the makers of the Masterpiece adaptation took some serious liberties with the plot (or lack thereof). The series is fun and I'm really enjoying it, but it contains several plot lines that are not in the book. In fact, arguably the most important plot lines in the series are completely made up (as opposed to completely made up by Gaskell, I guess). For example, the young doctor and his girl, and all the associated story-lines, simply do not exist in the book. The carpenter with the broken bones - it's all made up. (That disappointed me, because, ever since Middlemarch, I've had a soft spot for young, ambitious doctors in 19th Century English villages. Alas, it was not to be found.) The cute kid who wants to rise above his station? Not only isn't he in the book, but I think the entire idea of him is alien to this novella, which (unlike Gaskell's other work) is centered entirely around the middle and aristocratic classes (and shifts therein), and barely touches on the working class at all. More mildly, all of the timing is wrong (understandable, since following the vignettes too closely would result in a almost cliff-hanger free show, not good TV). And they skip a couple of deaths. There are a surprising number of deaths in this short novella, and I can see that if the series were more faithful to the book, it might be just too depressing. The book is never depressing, although it has sad moments, because of the quality of the narration, but this is difficult to reproduce on film. Overall, there are probably more inconsistencies than similarities between the two. But it's hard to blame the screen-writer - the book doesn't offer much in the way of actual action to work with, and is noticeably missing any love affairs between attractive young people, which, let's face it, is the bread and butter of Masterpiece. The droll, sarcastic, disjunctive narration of commonplace events, makes for a particularly difficult adaptation. But I love it - a new favorite narrator for me.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Laurel Hicks

    Great fun! Mrs. Gaskell's gentle yet probing comedy of manners is a book worthy of many readings. There's a lot of dressing up in this book--wearing the perfect hat for the occasion, buying the latest material, dressing a cow in flannel, Peter's ill-received jokes. No clear plot, but then I don't usually read for the plots. The character studies here are priceless.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Victorian values in small town England are skewered. Gaskell's lampooning of old biddies is razor-sharp in the first portion of Cranford. It dulls a bit and the story bogs down in the middle. By the end, the mocking is over and you're pulling for a happy ending.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lois Bujold

    I picked this up due to a review by Jo Walton on Tor.com. She described it as something like a mid-19th Century English Lake Wobegone, which gives a tolerably accurate sense of the discursive tone. Charming and kindly, with only a tenuous thread of anything one might call a plot, but nonetheless absorbing. I quite liked it. It is available as a free e-edition on Amazon Kindle. The first-person voice makes it very naturally a "told" story, untouched by the later cinematic techniques th I picked this up due to a review by Jo Walton on Tor.com. She described it as something like a mid-19th Century English Lake Wobegone, which gives a tolerably accurate sense of the discursive tone. Charming and kindly, with only a tenuous thread of anything one might call a plot, but nonetheless absorbing. I quite liked it. It is available as a free e-edition on Amazon Kindle. The first-person voice makes it very naturally a "told" story, untouched by the later cinematic techniques that infiltrated narratives in the century following. This also can be a subtly dense style, with a power to pack a lot into a little space. Strong sense of a time and place grown increasingly alien to us. So nice to read something that isn't trying to out-horrific all the others in some mad race for the bottom, even though the story was not untouched by death. The characters' vices were all petty ones, but their virtues, though gentle, were not. I'd almost forgotten books like this could exist. Maybe they can't, anymore. Ta, L.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Loretta

    Meh. Having never read Elizabeth Gaskell before, I feel that perhaps this was the wrong book to start with. It seemed like a never ending story about nothing in particular. No real plot and the characters were marginal and annoying.

  21. 4 out of 5

    ❀⊱RoryReads⊰❀

    Delightful! This is going on my favorites shelf.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Siria

    Beautifully observed and gently funny, Cranford is less a novel than it is a series of vignettes, drawn from the lives of a small group of genteelly impoverished older women in a small town in mid-nineteenth century England. Gaskell is quite gentle with her characters, I think perhaps because she was aware of how limited a life she was creating for them—with all the social restrictions placed on unmarried women, with just enough social status to be unable to work to support themselves, but with not enou Beautifully observed and gently funny, Cranford is less a novel than it is a series of vignettes, drawn from the lives of a small group of genteelly impoverished older women in a small town in mid-nineteenth century England. Gaskell is quite gentle with her characters, I think perhaps because she was aware of how limited a life she was creating for them—with all the social restrictions placed on unmarried women, with just enough social status to be unable to work to support themselves, but with not enough income to keep themselves independent—and so while they have to face trials, Miss Matty and Co. have the strength and the resilience to face them.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Renee M

    It took me a while to get into the rhythm of this book, after having been so swept away by North and South. This is quite different, but the two together showcase the bright talent that was Elizabeth Gaskell. Another reviewer has described the novel as adorable, and I heartily agree. It was so lovely to shake off the dust of my day for a few stolen moments in Cranford.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dawnie

    I love Gaskell's writing. And this book was no exception, even though i personally just never love short story collections, books that are made up of letters or anything that is not written in novel format from start to finish. Some of those stories about this quaint little village of Cranford were nice, some were also really boring -as it always happens with me and this type of book. I do think its a really nice classic if you want a every day life kind of view into the specific time, into a li I love Gaskell's writing. And this book was no exception, even though i personally just never love short story collections, books that are made up of letters or anything that is not written in novel format from start to finish. Some of those stories about this quaint little village of Cranford were nice, some were also really boring -as it always happens with me and this type of book. I do think its a really nice classic if you want a every day life kind of view into the specific time, into a little town that was a good way away from anything resembling a big city. It defiantly gives that. I think i would have enjoyed this book a little more if it would have been actually told from a point of view of a person that lived in Cranford all the time, and would have given more details and talk about what happens every day instead of having the story be told from someone that is visiting specific people. Its a nice book, defiantly not one of my personal favourite Gaskell's but also not a bad book in itself at all. Just slightly boring or over the top gossip-y feeling at times.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bookish Ally

    When I began this reading I was a bit confused by the multitude of characters that were being introduced, until I (slowly) began to know them. That’s it. There are no big happenings that occur in Cranford, except the things that still happen today because of the very nature of life. The truth is, many people might find Cranford boring, the book as well as the make believe town it casts its warm light on. This is not one of those “sensation novels” of the day - or even a romance. It is a picture When I began this reading I was a bit confused by the multitude of characters that were being introduced, until I (slowly) began to know them. That’s it. There are no big happenings that occur in Cranford, except the things that still happen today because of the very nature of life. The truth is, many people might find Cranford boring, the book as well as the make believe town it casts its warm light on. This is not one of those “sensation novels” of the day - or even a romance. It is a picture of the mundane day to day life of a small society of “shabby genteel” spinsters. I found that while I felt restless at the beginning of this very slow moving story that, eventually, I developed a relationship with these ladies and that I could even picture myself as one of them. By the end of the book I had completely established myself in the company of these women with their little flaws and foibles, their invisibly rigid rules that helped to make sense of living. At the end of this book I felt a sadness, like having to leave a dear friend who I know I won’t see again for many months of a year. 3.75 stars for a lovely book that really helps us to understand the mundane Victorian country life, even though it was just a bit idealistic.

  26. 5 out of 5

    K.

    Let me start by saying that I probably would have enjoyed this book more if I hadn't seen and loved the BBC's adaptation of Cranford like 10 years ago. Because this book is effectively a series of individual vignettes all set in the same village. The adaptation, in contrast, overlaps and spreads the vignettes out over the course of its episodes, allowing a more coherent storyline to emerge. So. There's nothing WRONG with the vignettes. But you don't find out the narrator's name until about two t Let me start by saying that I probably would have enjoyed this book more if I hadn't seen and loved the BBC's adaptation of Cranford like 10 years ago. Because this book is effectively a series of individual vignettes all set in the same village. The adaptation, in contrast, overlaps and spreads the vignettes out over the course of its episodes, allowing a more coherent storyline to emerge. So. There's nothing WRONG with the vignettes. But you don't find out the narrator's name until about two thirds of the way through the story. Characters are introduced only to be killed off a couple of pages later. Characters mentioned in passing in early chapters are brought back in detail in later chapters without any real sense of reintroduction. So yeah. The characters are delightful, as most of Gaskell's characters are. But the story itself felt disjointed.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lesle

    Cranford is a small English village inhabited mostly by ladies. Few gentlemen take up residence. Much ado about the proper ways to conduct life. There are few men who the women seem to enjoy. There is loss, death, marriage and childbirth like any other village. There is social standings and one who is a go to person for knowledge of what is correct, that they depend on. Cranford society changes and comes full circle in the end. I wish I had found it more interesting than I did. A Cranford is a small English village inhabited mostly by ladies. Few gentlemen take up residence. Much ado about the proper ways to conduct life. There are few men who the women seem to enjoy. There is loss, death, marriage and childbirth like any other village. There is social standings and one who is a go to person for knowledge of what is correct, that they depend on. Cranford society changes and comes full circle in the end. I wish I had found it more interesting than I did. At times had a hard time staying with it. Ended with a small relief that I was done. :(

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    I ended up liking this much better than I thought I would. At first I was lost as to how all the characters fit together. It felt like walking into a room full of people not knowing anyone. In addition to not knowing anyone in the room nobody acknowledges my presence. I'm in the middle of a conversation not knowing anything about the lives of people around me. I found it daunting getting up to speed on the life and times of the people of Cranford. I even considered abandoning it. I am glad I was I ended up liking this much better than I thought I would. At first I was lost as to how all the characters fit together. It felt like walking into a room full of people not knowing anyone. In addition to not knowing anyone in the room nobody acknowledges my presence. I'm in the middle of a conversation not knowing anything about the lives of people around me. I found it daunting getting up to speed on the life and times of the people of Cranford. I even considered abandoning it. I am glad I was patient and stuck with to the end. It was the humor that kept me going until I caught up with the characters and their relationship to one another. Most of the humor is subtle, involving gossip about other people in the community. One of the things I found funny involved a cat and a piece of lace. During one of the many conversations between the women of Cranford, one lady commented to another about how beautiful a piece of lace she was wearing was. The owner of the lace thanked the other for the kind comment and acknowledged that it was indeed one of the most beautiful pieces of lace she had ever owned. Then the possessor of this magnificent piece of cloth told the story of how she almost lost this wondrous possession. Apparently one excellent way of cleaning and caring for this wonder cloth is to clean it with milk. One particular day after this lace was nicely cleaned at the milk bath spa it was laid out to dry. This is where the cat comes in. Old puss eats it, that’s right gobbled it up, gone. After several attempts fail to retrieve said lace from the front end of the cat, the owner of the lace and apparently owner of the cat too, for they seemed to be on friendly terms, except for this one incident, gives the cat something to drink. After all after all that lace, not to mention fingers down his throat, old puss is quite thirsty. This mystery concoction that old puss is forced to drink does indeed result in the reappearance of the lace. The lace survives and is still thought of as wondrous. The dishonorable cat also survived, hopefully wiser for the experience. Now the ladies listening to this story are all joyously happy that the lace and the cat survived. However, none of the ladies seemed curious about which end of the cat the lace reappeared. Me I’m still curious about it, whatever end old puss returned his ill-gotten gains I think the ladies were very polite and proper by not mentioning it. What else can you expect from the gentile ladies of Cranford.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katherine

    At first, Cranford may seem superficially quaint in it's manner, as it relates the story of a small country town made up of mostly middle-aged women. But to read it only for it's quaintness is to do yourself a disservice, for there is more strength to this novel than just that. The first thing I noticed while reading was the surprisingly modern humor to be picked up on. From forcing laxatives on a fine lace eating cat, to dolling over a cow loved as a daughter (my examples may all be animal related, but At first, Cranford may seem superficially quaint in it's manner, as it relates the story of a small country town made up of mostly middle-aged women. But to read it only for it's quaintness is to do yourself a disservice, for there is more strength to this novel than just that. The first thing I noticed while reading was the surprisingly modern humor to be picked up on. From forcing laxatives on a fine lace eating cat, to dolling over a cow loved as a daughter (my examples may all be animal related, but there's much more), Cranford's society is absolutely hilarious. But the integrity isn't lacking either. Each woman's individualism is admired and loved, and their quirks accepted. And so I loved each character, but Miss Matty was certainly the star. As a whole, Cranford is a loving community, and I only wish there was more to read. I can understand how some feel uneasy about it's disjointedness, but if you read each chapter like a short story with the same characters it makes sense (though it is chronological). Cranford is a novel I will cherish and certainly read again.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Pink

    I liked this, it was sweet and humorous and quick to listen to. Although, I can't remember much that happened. There was the scene with the cat, some stuff about hats and fashions, some downfalls and some reunions. A snapshot of small town life in 19th century England, not a lot has changed really.

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