Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Cranford is a witty piece of Victorian literature, with the town Cranford being based off of Knutsford in Cheshire. Cranford is not so much a novel than a series of short stories which all seem to intertwine, making this chapters very easy to put down and fall back easily into the town of Cranford with it’s eclectic characters and antics.
I think my favorite story is that of Peter Jenkyns, Matty and Deborah’s long lost brother. Peter is what you would call a “juvenile delinquent” of that time. Dressing in woman’s clothing, sauntering around town to see if people will notice and tricking his father into explaining his sermons to an apparently interested young lady. Eventually, Peter is found out and flogged in public by his father. Due to this embarrassment Peter disappears becoming a wandering traveler of sorts before joining the militia; letting his whereabouts be know to his family only to disappear again. I think the reason I enjoyed this story is because it does show the good and the bad, with a chain reaction to one parent’s actions.
Another favorite of mine was Lady Glenmire’s visit and the girls of Cranford in a tizzy over how to behave. I pictured something like a Marx Brothers movie and Faulty Towers colliding. I could totally see Groucho giving the dog cream and the guests milk.
Lastly, I love that the narrator is an outsider from the town who can give an unbiased telling of these stories. I live in a small town as well and am not considered to be “from here” as I didn’t grow up in the community so sometimes feel like an outsider myself. Therefore I appreciated our narrator’s take on the village of Cranford.