by Elizabeth Gaskell
*** About the Book ***
The town of Cranford in the 1850s is inhabited solely by women. Well, there ARE some men, but they are the shopkeepers and the “lower class” people. The upper crust of Cranford society is all female. This odd situation has come about quite naturally, despite the way it sounds; the noble women of the town are all either widows or spinsters.
Young Mary Smith, a regular visitor to Cranford, is our narrator. She relates the events of the town, both small and large, in a series of stories loosely tied together only by the fact that they focus on the small group of women who “run” the town. Mary’s particular friend is the spinster Miss Matty, and her story is the main thread in this novel.
*** Why I Read It ***
When I chose books for this year’s 1% Well Read Challenge, I started at the bottom of the list (the oldest books) and picked titles that sounded interesting to me. I had no idea what this book was about, nor did I know that is was by the same woman who wrote THE NORTH AND THE SOUTH. I just figured I’d give it a shot and see how it turned out.
*** My Thoughts ***
This is why I love reading challenges: I picked a book I knew nothing about and found a story that I truly love. This is such a wonderful little book!
There isn’t much in the way of an overarching plot and normally that would really bother me. However each chapter is almost like a story in and of itself – which would make sense since this was first published serially. And it really works here.
The characters are charmingly written even when they aren’t so charming themselves. I would love to know Miss Matty in real life … but you can keep Mrs. Jamieson, thank you very much! I so enjoyed getting to know each character through their actions and their comments.
There are two currents that run throughout this novel just under the surface: humor and connection. At times the humor reminds me of Mr. and Mrs. Bennett’s conversations in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, those comments that weren’t meant to be funny by the speaker but that are totally hilarious. Other times it is the way the narrator tells the story itself. (For an example of this, read the quote I put in my read-a-long update.)
The second current is that of connections between people. With a town full of widows and spinsters, these connections are important but never really spoken of. Parts of the story really touched me, breaking my heart or filling it with joy depending on the situation.
This is a wonderful little book, very easy to read and even easier to fall in love with. I'm so glad that I read it! I hope to revisit it one day - and that's saying a lot. Now I just have to see if the TV version is a good as the book ...
*** The Read-a-long ***
I needed some motivation to keep myself on track to complete the 1% Well Read Challenge on time this year. What better way than to invite people to read with me?! So that’s what I did. A lovely group of bloggers jumped on my bandwagon and we’ve all read CRANFORD together this month. Be sure to check back on 9/30 when I’ll post links to all their reviews!
NOTE: If you are participating in the read-a-long and your review is done, please comment with the link so I can add it to the recap post – thanks!
*** Your Thoughts ***
Have you read this book? Or maybe something else by Gaskell? What did you think of it? Does it sound like a book you’d enjoy? Please share your thoughts!