Review: Cranford

June 24, 2010 Whitney Review 12 Comments

Review: CranfordCranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Published by Penguin Classics on April 25, 2006
Genres: Classic
Source: Bought

A portrait of the residents of an English country town in the mid nineteenth century, Cranford relates the adventures of Miss Matty and Miss Deborah, two middle-aged spinster sisters striving to live with dignity in reduced circumstances. Through a series of vignettes, Elizabeth Gaskell portrays a community governed by old-fashioned habits and dominated by friendships between women. Her wry account of rural life is undercut, however, by tragedy in its depiction of such troubling events as Matty's bankruptcy, the violent death of Captain Brown or the unwitting cruelty of Peter Jenkyns. Written with acute observation, Cranford is by turns affectionate, moving and darkly satirical.

In her introduction, Patricia Ingham discusses Cranford in relation to Gaskell's own past and as a work of irony in the manner of Jane Austen. She also considers the implications of the novel in terms of class and empire. This edition also includes further reading, notes, and an appendix on the significance of 'Fashion at Cranford'.

Cranford is a small town which is high in the population of female.  In the first section of the book, every male who enters the town drops like flies making it feel jinxed or like an old-fashioned sorority.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel is a sequence of short stories that all intertwine.  I’m typically not a short story reader so it took me a while to get into it and go with the flow.  Although, once there Cranford is enchanting!  All the characters are so lively that one can not help but fall in love, which is odd because most of the females are against that.

You cannot write a review without speaking of Miss Matty.  She is a kind old soul who while should seem a woman with much wisdom, she is, in fact, a child-like girl who everyone coddled and adored her because of her sweet nature.  I won’t say much in fear that I could give too much away, but an example of this is when Matty’s companion is engaged to be married but worries about mentioning it in case it were to upset her and devises a plan so everything benefits the surrounding persons.

My favorite and what I felt to be the most entertaining stories is of Lady Glenmire’s appearance.  Believed to be  the highest of society with the residence in town all in a tizzy over the preparations only to find that she is no different from themselves.

The running around reminded me of a Faulty Towers episode particularly the one where “The Germans” visit the hotel.   Really, when I think about it the majority of these stories could have been a highly sophisticated Faulty Towers.


12 responses to “Review: Cranford

  1. I've wanted to read Cranford for a long time and your review makes me want to get the book asap! 🙂 I love stories about women and this one seems perfect for me to read.

  2. I really enjoyed Cranford I found it so beautiful and the people felt like real living people – so normal every day people.

    The book I read contained two other stories – Mr Harrison's Confessions and My Lady Ludlow both very good too.

  3. A Bookish Space– Thank you! Aren't these cloth bound editions beautiful.

    Fiona– Those two extra stories sound interesting, thank you for mentioning them.

  4. I so much enjoy Cranford-haven't read it, but the movie was brilliant. I really want to read it. Thanks for sharing-and commenting on my character connection!


  5. Kathrine– Now I want to see the movie! Did you see the Masterpiece Theater version? I've heard it's suppose to be good.

    Carrie & Juju–Thank you! I think you'd both enjoy this.

  6. Beautiful write-up! I was actually on the verge of buying this book last weekend but eschewed it in favour of William Dalrymple and Eric Newby. Hope to read it as soon as I can 🙂

  7. Whitney, you have written a lovely review of a gentle and idyllic little book. I have always felt that "Cranford" is Gaskell's little series of linked vignettes that truly borders on being 'Austenesque.' I also loved the recent BBC film adaptation of "Cranford," and thought it was very well done. Wonderful review, Whitney! Cheers! Chris

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