Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, April 4, 2011

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (1853, 160 pages)

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

Mel u


Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

Great post. I've wanted to read something by Gaskell for a long time, and I've decided to start with Cranford.

Btw, I was referring to Booksale in my last Latest Acquisitions post. :)

Christina T said...

I really liked Cranford as well. That scene you described about the bank crisis was a favorite from the miniseries too. I nearly cried when I watched it (I get a bit sappy about such things sometimes).

My favorite Gaskell novel is North and South. I haven't read Wives and Daughters yet. I started it years ago but didn't finish it before I had to return it to the library.

Nice well written review. I will have to revisit Cranford again sometime.

Anonymous said...

Cranford is lovely - I love the little episodes and how you learn about the lives of these normal, strong hearted women.

I read it as part of a collection of 3 of her novellas - Mr Harrison's Confessions, Cranford and My Lady Ludlow.

I really enjoyed Mr Harrison's Confessions and Cranford - My Lady Ludlow was definitely very interesting but I felt a little long winded. There was a good part about the escape of a French aristocrat which was very good and I'd like to read again as I fear I wasn't much in the mood for it at the time.

Have you seen the BBC mini-series named Cranford? It incorporates the above three novellas into one kinda story - mainly centring around Cranford's.

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

I enjoyed reading your take on Cranford very much. Ever since I saw the BBC/Masterpiece Theatre movie adaptation of Gaskell's work I have wanted to read one of her books.

Unknown said...

i'm sooo going to read that now. i watched the PBS series, but wasn't sure about the book. sounds lovely!!! :D

Sarah M. said...

Great post! I love Gaskell! :)

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

Unfortunately, I do not think there is more Gaskell like Cranford. For her, it seems to have been an experiment.

I've written a bit about some of her stories, and did a week on Mary Barton, but they were all works of a quite different tone and character.

I've picked up a copy of North and South and will read it soon, but it's another Condition of England novel, and cannot possibly be a fifth as much fun as Cranford.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I read Cranford last year and it was my first Gaskell. It was such a wonderful story! I loved the women's commradery. I'd like to read North & South next.

Journey said...

Glad you enjoyed Cranford!
I really like Elizabeth Gaskell, I think "North and South" is a true masterpiece, it has a strong topic, strong and wonderful characters and a great narrative. So far it is (and I guess it will stay) my favorite Gaskell.
I've also read "Ruth" lately, which I found rather hard to get through, it had very good parts, but all in all it was too much moralizing. And I also read "Wives and Daughters", which I liked, but it was not half as great as N&S or Cranford to me.

Mel u said...

Darlyn-thanks-hope you like Cranford-

Christina T-thanks for the recommendation of North and South and your visit

Stephanie M Hasty-the book is lovely-thanks for your visit and comment as always


Amateur Reader-I think I might try some of her short stories-I have heard she has some good ghost stories-FMF really liked Cranford

Avid Reader-glad to hear you also love Cranford

Journey-I will consider North and South seriously as my next Gaskell

Mel u said...

The Book Coop-thanks for the suggestions as to further reading-sadly we do not get the BBC programs here in Manila but we can buy them sometimes-I will be on the lookout

As The Crowe Flies and Reads-thank you very much

Mel u said...

I just now found that you can listen online or down load audio books of most of her novels and a lot of her stories for free at this web page