"Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses, above a certain rent, are women."
Elizabeth Gaskell is not as well known as other major Victorian novelists (Dickens, Thackeray, Eliot), but she knew Charlotte Bronte and wrote a book about her and had stories published in a magazine run by Dickens. "Cranford," like a number of other 19th century novels by women (Austen, Bronte, Eliot), is concerned with the life, loves, and manners of a provincial town. Fans of the 19th century English novel will find much to appreciate here. Also see "North and South."
***** stars. I loved the PBS Masterpiece Theatre presentation of this novel and could not imagine that a book could capture the wonderful observations and interactions of Judi Dench and her fellow actors. I had never read an book by Ms. Gaskell, and felt I should give one a try. What a delight!! Much as I loved the production, it is almost never possible for a film to capture all the internal machinations of the minds of the characters. The thoughts and interactions of Miss Mary Smith and her two friends in a world largely without men, where said creatures are viewed perhaps at best as minor impediments to an orderly, reasonable life, are wonderful. I listened to this book on CD. This heightened the enjoyment of the terrific prose. Dame Judi did a great job, but Ms. Gaskell goes her one better. The book may be over 150 years old, but I would recommend it to everyone. Hurrah!!
Cranford is a town run by old ladies and spinsters. But when modern times comes to the town, and old ways must change, it is up to the inhabitants to move with the times lead by this very spririted group of women.
Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) was a Victorian writer with an agenda of social criticism. Her Cranford novels (Cranford, Mr. Harrison?s Confessions, and My Lady Ludlow are combined in the Vintage Classics edition, if you can find it) chronicle the lives of the women--spinster sisters Matty and Deborah, their kind-hearted and observant friend Mary Smith, and their many gossiping neighbors--in the market town of Cranford, a town facing social and economical changes as the Victorian age of progress pushes closes and closer. Gossip rules the lives of these women, whether it be talk of the railroad or the new bachelor doctor?s love interests. The stories are episodic and comic, the characters are realistic and loveable, and the narration is witty and intimate. Like Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell focuses on women and the events that are important to them: love and marriage of course, but also loss, death, and consequences that result from paths not taken. For readers who enjoy the gentle social criticism of Jane Austen?s books, Cranford is another portrait of the way of life of a time and place that has passed us by.
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