Book: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
** 18 & 19th Century Women Writers
** Victorian Challenge
** Casual Classics
** Spring Reading Thing
** Read and Review
** New Author
** Themed Reading
Summary from Amazon:
Novel by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, published serially in Charles Dickens' magazine Household Words from 1851 to 1853 and in book form in 1853. Basing her tales on the village in which she was reared, Gaskell produced a gently comic picture of life and manners in an English country village during the 1830s. The novel's narrator (a young woman who periodically visits Cranford) describes the small adventures in the lives of two middle-aged sisters in reduced circumstances who do their best to maintain their standards of propriety, decency, and kindness. Using an intimate, gossipy voice that never turns sentimental, Gaskell conveys the old-fashioned habits, subtle class distinctions, and genteel poverty of the townspeople. Cranford quickly became one of the author's best-loved works.
"Cranford is a charming imaginary town filled with chatty females, most of them old spinsters, gossip and nostalgia, loves unfulfilled and remembered, and loves that find a place and a home at last."
I am not normally a great lover of classics---actually, when I manage to read them I find that I enjoy them. It is just that the act of reading them can be a chore at times. I am a lazy reader in that I don't like to have to look something up which I don't understand--in the middle of reading! That said, I tend to shy away from tackling this genre more often.
Cranford! Ah Cranford! What a genteel and slow paced life is led in Cranford. I found the story delightful and the characters, (largely comprised of spinsters and widows) to be delightful in their own quirky ways also. Miss Matty is the most sweet of them all, and it is no wonder that everyone in Cranford loves her so and rallies to support her in her hour of need. Although men are noticeably quite absent throughout most of the book, the topic of the vulgarity of men occurs amongst the ladies of Cranford. Men and marriage do find their way into the novel-and what kind gentlemen they are!
This is not a plot driven novel, but rather a character driven novel as we are transported back to a simpler time--proper behavior is expected and observed down to the very details of when it is proper to call on one another and what style of clothing to wear during that calling time. Gossip abounds, as well as sweet time spent reminiscing as we come to understand these old ladies through the remembrances of their youth.
Passage that made me laugh:
"My next visit to Cranford was in the summer. There had been neither births, deaths, nor marriages since I was there last. Everybody lived in the same house, and wore pretty nearly the same well-preserved, old-fashioned clothes. The greatest event was that the Miss Jenkynses had purchased a new carpet for the drawing-room. Oh the busy work Miss Matty and I had in chasing the sunbeams, as they fell in an afternoon right down on this carpet through the blindless window! We spread newspapers over the places, and sat down to our book or our work; and , lo! in a quarter of an hour the sun had moved, and was blazing away on a fresh spot; and down again we went on our knees to alter the position of the newspapers. We were very busy , too, one whole morning, before Miss Jenkyns gave her party, in following her directions, and in cutting out and stitching together pieces of newspaper, so as to form little paths to every chair, set for the expected visitors, lest their shoes might dirty or defile the purity of the carpet. Do you make paper paths for every guest to walk upon in London."
Twelve years after publishing Cranford, Gaskell has kind words for her most prolific work. "It is the only one of my books that I can read again; but whenever I am ailing or ill, I take Cranford and - I was going to say, enjoy it! (but that would not be pretty!) laugh over it afresh!"
Here is a great little biography of Elizabeth Gaskell.