I am reading this as part of my participation in The Elizabeth Gaskell Reading Challenge
Cranford was a total delight for me. The author, Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865-UK) wrote five novels and a number of short stories. Charles Dickens greatly admired her work and published some of her short stories in magazines he controlled.
Cranford is set in the imaginary town of Cranford, England. Cranford is a town very much dominated by women. If a man and wife moves there, the man seems to somehow pass out of the picture. Many of the women are widows left with enough funds to live comfortably, some are spinsters, and some are still in search of a husband. There are a few single men living in Cranford and they come in for a lot of scrutiny. The book is by and large about members of the lower gentry. There is very little use of rural or country dialogue in the book, a plus for me.
In one very touching episode, one of the women, who was the adult daughter of the owner of a local bank that has gone into default taking all of the woman's money and badly hurting many in the town, fears she will be reduced to total poverty and have to live as a boarder on the small money she has left. The women in the town all band together to set up an arrangement to support the woman through their contributions. While this is going on one of the maid's and her boyfriend offer to let her stay with them in a flat out hilarious scene. Gaskell does a great job with relationships. I loved it when the lady set up a tea shop in her parlor.
Cranford is a joy to read. The prose is beautiful, the characters for sure are sympathetic and believable.
There is a good bit of gentle satire and I loved all of the conversations about Samuel Johnson!
I recommend this canon status work without any reservations. It is not a difficult or hard to read book. It is very entertaining and I feel OK saying it was heartwarming.
If others have any suggestions as to my next Gaskell, please leave a comment.
You can listen to all of her novels and a number of her shorter works HERE