Gaskell, Elizabeth. 1853. Cranford. 293 pages.
In the first place, Cranford is in possessions of the Amazons; all the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women. If a married couple come to settle in the town, somehow the gentleman disappears; he is either fairly frightened to death by being the only man in the Cranford evening parties, or he is accounted for by being with his regiment, his ship, or closely engaged in business all the week in the great neighboring commercial town of Drumble, distant only twenty miles on railroad. In short, whatever does become of the gentlemen, they are not at Cranford. What could they do if they were there? The surgeon has his round of thirty miles, and sleeps at Cranford; but every man cannot be a surgeon.
How did I like Cranford (the book that is!)? Well, I found it charming in some ways--many ways I suppose. It is old-fashioned. It is written with the focus being on characters that are characters--if you know what I mean! If the book has a weakness, it would be that there isn't one great plot. There are a few strains of plot connecting the chapters at times. But overall, these chapters are just loosely connected. Shared characters, of course, and shared tone--heartfelt and genuine. The book is many things. It can be funny. It can be witty. It can be heartbreaking. It can be sweet. Is that enough to interest modern readers? Maybe. Especially with the movie being released recently. But this style of storytelling--as wonderful as it can be--doesn't always mean that the book is hard to put down. There isn't this urgency to read it. That doesn't mean that it isn't interesting in its own way. But it's more here a chapter, there a chapter than anything else.
So what is the book about? Well, it's about friendship. It's about life. There is some talk of gossip and parties and fashion and such. It's about manners, society, and class.
The central character--in many ways--is a little old maid Miss Matty. Though she would never in a million years place herself in the center of the community, she is in many ways the heart of the community. And what this community does to show their support...well...it's really touching. But I'll say no more about that!
This is my second Gaskell novel. I've also read and reviewed Wives and Daughters. While I enjoyed Cranford (it's much, much shorter than Wives and Daughters) I think I prefer Wives and Daughters more.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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